Government to shock smokers to quit

The Government is to ramp up its use of hard-hitting marketing focussing on the health harms cigarettes cause smokers after research found that quit attempts have fallen.

Anti-smoking ad
Government is to use the sort of shock tactics employed in 2004

In a strategy document laying out the Government’s marketing strategy for the next three years, the Department of Health says it will attempt to address the “low sense of personal risk” smokers associate with their habit by shocking them into quitting.

Ads in the style of the 2004 “oozing fat” campaign that showed smokers’ arteries clogged up with fat will cover personal health harms. The impact of second-hand smoke and smoking in pregnancy will also be covered in campaigns created by recently re-appointed agency Dare.

The bulk of recent activity has focused on the stories of smokers that have quit in a bid to motivate others to do the same. The DoH signaled its intention to move towards more hard-hitting activity with a March spot focussing on the dangers to children from second-hand smoke.

The DoH claims recent studies show both the “motivation to quit” and quit attempts have declined because of a lack of “significant commitment to change” in an uncertain economic climate that creates “stress and uncertainty”.

Hard-hitting ads reminding people why they should stop will be one of a three-pronged strategy designed to be “anti-smoking” and not “anti-smoker”, the document continues. Marketing will also feature initiatives to prompt immediate quit attempts, such as the current “Stoptober” drive as well as information on improving smokers’ chances of permanently quitting.

The Government will spend £13.1m on anti-smoking marketing in the current financial year, the document states, 7 per cent of the DoH’s total budget. The total investment, however, is down on the £15m spent in 2011/2012 in the line with the overall reduction in the Government’s marcomms budget and the shift towards cheaper digital, direct and owned media channels.

“Mass media campaigns” such as television, radio and cinema will continue to be used, the document adds.

The majority of activity will launch under the SmokeFree brand first introduced in 2006 and now recognised by 48 per cent of the population, the document claims. Anti-obesity initiative Change4Life could also be used.

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