To assess the extent to which intensity and timing of televised anti-smoking advertising emphasizing the serious harms of smoking influences quit attempts. Using advertising gross rating points (GRPs), we estimated exposure to tobacco control and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) advertising in the 3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12 months prior to follow-up of a replenished cohort of 3037 Australian smokers during 2002-08. Using generalized estimating equations, we related the intensity and timing of advertising exposure from each source to the likelihood of making a quit attempt in the 3 months prior to follow-up. Tobacco control advertising in the 3-month period prior to follow-up, but not in more distant past periods, was related to a higher likelihood of making a quit attempt. Each 1000 GRP increase per quarter was associated with an 11% increase in making a quit attempt [odds ratio (OR) = 1.11, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03-1.19, P = 0.009)]. NRT advertising was unrelated to quit attempts. Tobacco control advertising emphasizing the serious harms of smoking is associated with short-term increases in the likelihood of smokers making a quit attempt. Repeated cycles of higher intensity tobacco control media campaigns are needed to sustain high levels of quit attempts.