Anti-smoking forces build up head of steam. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids can't match the tobacco budget, but it's got PR, says President William D. Novelli.
In just three years, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has grown into a major player in efforts to enact federal, state and local policies; curb tobacco marketing to kids; prevent tobacco use in youth; and help both adults and kids to quit smoking.
Our strength lies in integrating communications, advocacy, alliance building and research. Communications, especially PR, is important in countering an industry that effectively influences the legislative process, has extensive legal and lobbying forces, and spends more than $5 billion annually in marketing alone.
We are now an essential source for information and quotes on breaking stories. We initiate news and features; respond quickly to events and opposing editorial positions; conduct polls on key issues and public opinion; and publicize legislators' tobacco voting records. We also track tobacco money to politicians and publicize this information, nationally and in lawmakers' home districts. These efforts are frequently combined with advertising to convey our messages.
The Campaign is concerned that smoking among kids is growing, with more than a million new smokers per year, according to The Center for Disease Control. Both proponents and opponents of tobacco have renewed strength.
And recent settlements with state attorney generals mean there will be more money than ever available to fund anti-smoking campaigns.
We now have 135 partner organizations, such as the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, and our National Action Network, a large database of activists in every state, helps generate grassroots support.
One of our most powerful strategies is youth advocacy. Kids are natural activists, and a powerful voice in the fight against tobacco.
We have four major youth advocacy programs:
PRSA Youth Advocacy Pilot Program: youth organizations and schools in five cities are matched with local chapters of the Public Relations Society of America. The PR pros serve as mentors, teaching media and advocacy skills so that the kids become more effective advocates in their communities.
Kick Butts Day: an annual initiative engaging America's youth in creative anti-tobacco activities. In 1998, thousands of kids in all states took part in more than 400 rallies and events, including writing letters to movie stars who smoke on screen. The 1999 Kick Butts Day (April 14) will be the topic of the Public Relations Student Society of America's 1999 Bateman Competition. PRSSA chapters will work with local schools to develop Kick Butts Day plans for their own communities. Winners will come to Washington DC for judging and awarding of prizes.
Youth Advocates of the Year Awards: outstanding young tobacco control activists are honored through a nationwide competition. Both national and regional winners are chosen. These kids work to keep their schools and communities tobacco-free. All have become effective spokespersons and activists for our Campaign.
Pilot school programs: in conjunction with the National Education Association, we test classroom curriculums in Maryland and Connecticut to teach students advocacy skills for them to practice in their communities.
In all we do, PR relations is part of the process from the very beginning.
We can't match tobacco's massive budget, but we can be stronger and more creative in PR.