Campaign: Issues management - SmokeFree London polls public on ban

Campaign: The Big Smoke Debate

Client: SmokeFree London

PR Team: Munro & Forster

Timescale: October 2003- February 2004

Budget: £55,000

SmokeFree London, an alliance of anti-smoking groups and health bodies in the capital, wanted to create a campaign to convince policy makers that London should have smoking restrictions in public places. Munro & Forster (M&F) was hired to run the campaign and decided that the best way forward was to show the strength of support for the move through a consultation exercise called the Big Smoke Debate.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone's health advisory group the London Health Commission (LHC) was brought on board and the debate was launched under its name.

Objectives

To encourage the public to take part in the online consultation. To convince national policy makers that regions should have the right to choose their own public health restrictions.

To raise awareness about the campaign with policy makers.

Strategy and Plan

To launch the campaign, M&F issued a press release with MORI survey data showing that 71 per cent of Londoners are bothered by smoking in enclosed public places. London's Evening Standard was given the exclusive.

In a bid to attract broadcasters, the team also set up a media opportunity at a branch of Japanese restaurant chain Wagamama, which has smoking restrictions.

Trade magazines were then offered features on the issue.

When an article in medical journal The Lancet called for an outright public smoking ban, it provided a further news hook for the campaign.

LHC experts, such as chairman Len Duvall, were put forward for interviews.

Other news hooks included the LHC conference on smoking in the workplace in December 2003, as well as the results of the campaign, which were published in January.

Measurement and Evaluation

National coverage of the consultation exercise included articles in The Times, features on Sky News, ITV News Channel and Five News, as well as coverage on, among others, Virgin Radio, Radio 1 and Radio Five Live.

Around 20 London newspapers, including the Evening Standard and Metro, and seven other UK regional papers such as the Derby Evening Telegraph covered the story.

Coverage also featured on 14 websites, in four medical publications and six trade magazines, including The Publican.

In addition, the LHC smoking conference was covered by around 50 national and local media outlets.

Results

A total of 34,446 people responded to the online survey, of which 78 per cent said they supported a smoking ban in public places. The Government is now considering allowing local authorities to opt for restrictions.

The consultation campaign has been used in five other areas, with a sixth under way. A spokeswoman for Livingstone praised the campaign, describing it as 'a wake-up call to bars and pubs (to) get their act together in terms of decent no-smoking areas, proper ventilation and air conditioning'.

Times journalist Stefanie Marsh, who covered the story, said: 'It was run by anti-smokers and, as I remember, the survey was blind so I could have gone onto it and voted 20 times if I wanted to. I thought that was a major flaw. Having said that, the campaign was good at raising awareness of the smoking-ban issue.'

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