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Table 1 Key psychological principles underpinning Stoptober’s program components

From: “Like you are fooling yourself”: how the “Stoptober” temporary abstinence campaign supports Dutch smokers attempting to quit

Psychological principlea Program components Theoretical methodsb, c
Social contagion
Social networks can facilitate the spread of attitudes and behavior and increase the reach and intensity of a message. Stoptober used traditional and new mass media channels to create a mass quitting trigger and actively support a social movement around stopping smoking. Positive messaging was used to build engagement, enhance message dissemination and normalize quitting behavior. Stoptober aimed to increase support for the campaign, and to motivate smokers to participate and encourage others to do so too, since interconnected groups of smokers often try to quit together.
Press exposure, television and radio broadcasts include the message that Stoptober is coming up and all smokers should participate and try to quit smoking temporarily on the same date. Non-smokers are encouraged to support smokers in their participation. Increase awareness of Stoptober
Increase awareness of the advantages of smoking cessation
Persuasive communication
Mobilizing social network support
Increasing feelings of self-efficacy
The Stoptober camper travels to various parts of the country to reach a large number of people. The camper personnel provide information about smoking cessation and encourage participants to take part in Stoptober. Increase awareness of the advantages of smoking cessation
Increased awareness of Stoptober
Persuasive communication
Increasing feelings of self-efficacy
SMART goals
SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive) goals help people to achieve a difficult behavior changes, such as stopping smoking for good. Therefore, Stoptober challenged smokers to set an intermediary goal, i.e., to stop smoking for a time-limited period. This goal may be relatively easy to achieve, and once achieved, it substantially increases the chances of becoming a permanent non-smoker.
Set time and duration of collective cessation attempt. Stoptober challenges smokers not to smoke for 28 days during the month October. Goal-setting theory
Implementation intentions
Increasing feelings of self-efficacy
PRIME theory
PRIME theory is a comprehensive theory of motivation. Behavior is determined from moment to moment by a wide variety of motivational inputs, while the motivational system is unstable and requires constant balancing of inputs to maintain a certain behavior (e.g. smoking). Programs that aim to achieve behavior change, e.g. quitting smoking, should offer a range of support that triggers the whole motivational system rather than single elements.d This support should both weaken the motivational powers that cause the behavior (e.g. smoking) and create new sources of desire and control to refrain from that behavior (e.g. quitting smoking). Therefore, Stoptober offered an elaborate support package, consisting of Twitter messages, ambassadors, video diaries, a Facebook community, social media profile logos and an app. This support package aims to decrease the motivation to smoke and create new desires to quit smoking.
Subscription on the website to have access to the Stoptober app, a free magazine and newsletters Goal setting theory
Implementation intentions
Email messages with tips, progress, motivational messages and news Positive reinforcement
Persuasive communication
Increasing feelings of self-efficacy
Bracelets to wear during the campaign to remind participants not to smoke and demonstrate their commitment to others Public commitment
Social support
Positive reinforcement
Twitter account wherein Stoptober frequently posts positive and encouraging messages for the participants Positive reinforcement
Persuasive communication
Belief selection
Well-known ambassadors participate in Stoptober, try to gain publicity for the program through their media presence and serve as examples for other participants. Increase awareness of Stoptober
Persuasive communication
Mass media role modeling
Provide opportunities for social comparison
Video diaries of Stoptober participants on YouTube and Facebook. Social support
Role modeling
Opportunities for social comparison
Facebook page wherein Stoptober frequently posts positive and encouraging messages for the participants and where they can share their accomplishments and struggles. Participants can share tips, compliments and encouragement. Positive reinforcement
Persuasive communication
Belief selection
Mobilizing social networks
Opportunities for social comparison
Advice on relapse prevention:
• Counterconditioning
• Cue altering
• Stimulus control
• Planning coping responses
• Resisting social pressure
• Providing contingent rewards
Increasing feelings of self-efficacy
Stoptober logos for Facebook profile pictures to notify friends and family of their participation. Public commitment
Mobilizing social support
Mobilizing social networks
Stoptober app keeps track of abstinence, amount of money saved and number of unsmoked cigarettes. Participants can earn achievement badges and press an ‘emergency’ button to help with cravings. Self-monitoring of behavior
Positive reinforcement
Persuasive communication
Advice on relapse prevention:
• Counterconditioning
• Cue altering
• Stimulus control
• Planning coping responses
• Resisting social pressure
• Providing contingent rewards
Increasing feelings of self-efficacy
  1. aBrown J, Kotz D, Michie S, Stapleton J, Walmsley M, West R. How effective and cost-effective was the national mass media smoking cessation campaign ‘Stoptober’? Drug Alcohol Depend. 2014;135(100):52–8
  2. bEldredge LKB, Markham CM, Ruiter RAC, Fernández ME, Kok G, Parcel GS. Planning Health Promotion Programs: An Intervention Mapping Approach. 4 ed.: Wiley; 2016
  3. cMichie S, Richardson M, Johnston M, Abraham C, Francis J, Hardeman W, et al. The Behavior Change Technique Taxonomy (v1) of 93 Hierarchically Clustered Techniques: Building an International Consensus for the Reporting of Behavior Change Interventions. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2013;46(1):81–95
  4. dWest R, Brown J. Theory of Addiction: Wiley; 2013