Government launches £2.7m ‘shocking’ anti-smoking campaign

The Department of Health has returned to hard-hitting anti-smoking advertising focusing on health harms for the first time in eight years with a spot showing a tumour growing on a cigarette as it’s smoked.


In an attempt to “shock” smokers into quitting, the Dare-created spot explains that smoking 15 cigarettes could cause a mutation that leads to cancerous tumours.

The Department wants to trigger an immediate response from smokers, particularly the third research found still believe the risks associated with smoking are exaggerated, by focussing on the harm cigarettes do in the short-term. Anti-smoking ads have talked of the long-term affects since 2004’s “fatty cigarette” ad, which claimed smoking clogs the arteries.

Speaking at a briefing unveiling the campaign, DH marketing director Sheila Mitchell said the ad will be seen by a generation of smokers that have not been exposed to hard-hitting campaigns but have grown up in an environment less accepting of smoking as a result of the 2007 smoking ban in public places and last year’s display ban in supermarkets.

“Long-term harm messages don’t register. We want to focus on the short-term hidden harms and trigger a pavlovian response,” she added.

The spot, part of a £2.7m campaign that also includes outdoor and online activity, has been handed an “ex-kids” rating, which means it cannot be shown during children’s programming but could still be seen by children watching television with their parents.

Mitchell told Marketing Week the department is expecting the Advertising Standards Authority to receive complaints from adults claiming the spot is upsetting to children.

The Department has been rapped by the regulator over anti-smoking ads before. A 2007 campaign that featured a man dragged along by a fish hook piercing his cheek in a bid to demonstrate how hooked smokers are by their addiction was banned after receiving 774 complaints from people who found it distressing.

The campaign launches today (28 December) and will run until mid-February.


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