01.01.2011 Starting rather than quitting: the new anti-smoking campaign is geared to positive feelings

Anti-smoking campaign 2011–2012. The findings from the evaluation of the 2009 campaign showed clearly that the style, slogan and emblem of the campaigns to date were in need of change. It is time for a new campaign that pursues bold routes. Using humour, irony and positive associations, the new anti-smoking campaign calls on people to start not smoking and thus gain new freedom.

Pictures Starting rather than quitting: the new anti-smoking campaign is geared to positive feelings


Switzerlands current tobacco prevention efforts are based on the National Programme on Tobacco (NPT) that the Federal Council approved on 18 June 2008 for a period of four years (see article on page 5) as the successor to the first NPT prevention programme (NPT 2008–2012). One of the aims of the programme is to reduce the proportion of smokers in the resident population of Switzerland from 29% in 2007 to about 23% in 2012, which would position Switzerland in the European average range for smoking rates. However, initial results from Swiss Tobacco Monitoring for 2009 show that the proportion of smokers has stalled at 27%. If the NPT’s targets are to be achieved by 2012, additional efforts will be required. The FOPH therefore decided to develop another mass-media umbrella campaign for 2011 and 2012 that would motivate both the general public and politicians to continue supporting efforts to reduce smoking.

Using the weapons of the tobacco industry
An innovative route was selected for the 2011–2012 campaign. The core idea of the campaign is to show non- smoking in a positive light. To do so, the campaign borrows the tobacco industry’s own advertising methods, using the slogan «No cigarette is better» to promote SmokeFree, the brand for non-smokers. This, it should be noted, is a brand whose many positive selling points put every other brand of cigarette in the shade because it is «The only cigarette with no poison in it» and the «The only cigarette that doesn’t do any harm». By this means, non-smoking is positioned as the best option, but without any moralising. Thanks to this unusual core idea, messages can be put across in a new way and, for the first time, an attractive brand concept can be created for non-smoking. This brand offers an attractive alternative to smoking. Advertisements, posters and a website will be launched in the kick-off phase of the campaign. Also planned are promotional teams that, like their counterparts in the tobacco industry, take the «non-smoker brand» to the public. Instead of cigarettes, of course, the pack contains cards that supply tips on quitting smoking and list the benefits of not smoking. The aim of this phase is to establish the campaign’s key visual, the empty SmokeFree pack, as quickly as possible. In the second phase, the pictures focus on people, using warm colours and attractive backlighting effects. At the same time, they communicate the drawbacks and dangers associated with real cigarettes. We see the pack with its slogan appearing on the edge of the picture, positioning itself as a brand. The campaign thus creates a world which, in contrast to that of tobacco advertising, is not false and in which everyone really is better off.

Positive feedback from pre-tests
The campaign has already had good pre-test ratings. The research institute responsible for pre-testing credits the campaign with great potential for shedding a new and positive light on tobacco prevention. By giving non-smoking an emotional charge, the campaign succeeds in associating this healthy behaviour with a positive and «cool» lifestyle in all target groups. The kick-off phase is perceived by all target groups – even smokers – as being interesting and humorous. It reaffirms non-smokers’ choice of behaviour while prompting smokers to have a rethink. According to the test findings, the second phase comes across particularly clearly as an ironical take on the advertising tactics of the tobacco industry, effectively associating non-smoking with a positive lifestyle.
The experts who were consulted − Prof. Werner Wirth and Prof. Heinz Bonfadelli from the University of Zurich − also praised the campaign as convincing and creative. However, both professors emphasised in discussions that prevention campaigns achieve their full effect only if associated with flanking measures. They also pointed out that the campaign would have to adhere consistently to its positive-minded humour, retain its daring approach to content and address the urgency of the need to quit smoking in a direct manner.

Humour is an effective tool that reaches people
As a look at other countries’ anti-smoking campaigns shows, the problem of smoking can be tackled in different ways. These range from displays of shocking pictures and facts aimed at encouraging people to want to quit smoking, to strategies based on a positive, humorous approach. The latter route is used particularly to gain the agreement of the public. And yet positive campaigns are also viewed as having a positive influence on the numbers of people smoking, while shock-type campaigns can also have negative effects on attitudes. Research has shown that humour and emotionality are reliable ways of attracting attention in advertising and they increase sympathy for the communicator and the message. Studies also confirm a positive impact in terms of learning effects, persuasive power and motivation. What’s more, a positive, sympathetic approach is known to raise acceptance of structural measures associated with tobacco prevention. Thus a basically positive approach is associated with greater attention, broader acceptance and less resistance (reactance).

This greater attention is of particular importance with regard to quitting smoking. It has to be assumed that smokers have a deep level of involvement in smoking and so have little interest in «stop smoking» messages. The fact that smoking is unhealthy is now common knowledge. Smokers therefore do not really want to be reminded that they are doing themselves damage. The «alternative routes» model shows clearly that, where involvement is low, attention-grabbing media are particularly important in a campaign. Lastly, a campaign can be effective only if the people targeted are accessible to the communication media. As tobacco prevention is aimed at many different target groups, it is important to use all possible channels – i.e. TV commercials, posters, advertisements, giveaways and, not least, the Internet – to arouse attention and interest.

A campaign for the head, heart and hands
Like the advertising sector, tobacco prevention is all about influencing people’s attitudes and behaviour. The fields of social and health psychology offer a range of different theories, models and insights on how these goals can best be achieved. For instance, attitudes are known to consist of three components: affective (emotions such as love and aversion), cognitive (knowledge, convictions, etc.) and behavioural. There does not have to be agreement between all three components. A smoker may, for instance, know that smoking is harmful (cognition), but still smoke (behaviour) and enjoy doing so (affect). Here, the cognitive component does not tally with the behavioural or affective components. A campaign should therefore act on all three components if it is to influence attitudes. The new campaign satisfies this requirement by celebrating the positive aspects of not smoking (affective), offering support for quitting smoking (behaviour) and providing information on the harmfulness of smoking (cognitive).

Ideal prerequisites for a change in behaviour
According to the social psychologists Ajzen and Madden, three factors influence behaviour:
1. The intention of engaging or not engaging in a particular behaviour (attitude).
2. Perceived pressure from other people or from oneself to engage in a particular behaviour (social norm).
3. The anticipated ease or difficulty of actually engaging in the intended behaviour (behavioural control).

All three factors therefore need to be included in a campaign for it to achieve the greatest possible effect on behaviour. The present campaign also meets this requirement. The positive approach to not smoking influences both the subjective norm and the individual’s own attitude. In addition, the different offerings relating to quitting smoking increase the perceived behavioural control.

Three campaign phases – each with its own evaluation
The kick-off and first phase of the campaign will run in January and February 2011, while the third phase will follow in June 2011. An evaluation will be performed at the end of each phase. This means that the campaign can, if necessary, be adapted in line with target group reactions as early as January 2011.

Main messages of the SmokeFree campaign

1. With SmokeFree you don’t have to say «I’m quitting»; it’s more a question of starting something new. You start to enjoy a new freedom that does you good and doesn’t harm anyone.

2. SmokeFree reaffirms non-smokers’ and ex-smokers’ behaviour and prompts smokers to have a rethink, but without triggering reactance.

3. SmokeFree offers an attractive alternative to the tobacco industry’s offerings.


Adrian Kammer, Head of Campaigns Section, adrian.kammer@bag.admin.ch
Valérie Maertens, Campaigns Project Manager, valerie.maertens@bag.admin.ch

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