Lung cancer charity puts spotlight on kids - VoluntarySector

Campaign: The Smoke Alarm Client: The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation PR team: Weber Shandwick Timescale: June-July 2005 Budget: £5,000

After the death of entertainer Roy Castle in 1994 - a non-smoker who developed lung cancer from second-hand smoke - the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation was set up to highlight the dangers of passive smoking.

Most of its activity has been aimed at securing local-level coverage, but this summer Weber Shandwick was hired to raise the profile of the organisation on a national basis. In this, its first campaign for the charity, WS decided to tackle the misconception that lung cancer is an old person's disease and flag up the work being done in schools to educate children about the dangers of smoking.


To drive national brand awareness of the foundation. To highlight children and young people as a necessary anti-smoking target.

Strategy and Plan

When appointed, the PR team immediately identified a strong news hook in unpublished findings from a study commissioned by the foundation into young people's attitudes to smoking.

It was the first study of its kind to establish how behaviour towards smoking develops between the ages of four and eleven.

A press release was sent out to local, national, trade, print and broadcast media that highlighted the most striking findings. For example, the survey revealed that over a third of UK primary-school children had tried smoking.

Significantly, the survey also found that parents and siblings (rather than peers) have the greatest influence on whether young people take up smoking. The release directed editors to, where they could find out more about the charity's educational programmes and its anti-tobacco youth campaign.

To create further media interest, two of the schoolboys who had taken part in the study travelled to 10 Downing Street on the campaign's launch day to present the findings to the Government. Representatives from the charity and the university behind the study, Liverpool John Moores, were also on hand to conduct media interviews.

Measurement and Evaluation

Widespread coverage was achieved in national and local newspapers, as well as on radio stations and TV news, such as Sky News bulletins. Trade articles appeared in titles such as Young People Now and medical journals.

According to WS's internal evaluation, the campaign generated a return on investment of more than 9,000 per cent and equated to £450,000.


Kevin Barron MP, chair of the Health Select Committee and member of the All Party Group on Smoking and Health, called for more to be done to educate people about the damaging consequences of smoking at home and in front of children. According to The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, healthcare workers worldwide contacted it to request copies of the study.

Liverpool Daily Post reporter Deborah James says: 'This was a well-researched study on an important national issue that would concern any of our readers with school-age children or links with the health or teaching professions. The fact that researchers were available for interview immediately meant questions could be answered quickly.'


Nick Stewart, health press manager at Cancer Research UK, oversees the charity's anti-tobacco campaigns Finding fresh ways to communicate anti-smoking messages is a major challenge.

Smokers think they have heard it all before, and journalists want to see something genuinely new.

Using a robust piece of research as the basis of this campaign was integral to its success. The type of PR a charity uses reflects on the organisation, and this approach sent out a strong message about the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

Putting children at the centre of the campaign was also a great idea.

It is vitally important to prevent kids from getting hooked on cigarettes.

The foundation harnessed the media's love of children, and the resulting coverage was impressive.

It is easy to be patronising when trying to direct health messages to children, and sometimes well-meaning campaigns get it wrong. But children were at the centre of this campaign, and able to give their opinion on a matter they find interesting. This approach would have helped the campaign's credibility among kids, and hopefully directed many of them to the charity's child-focused website.

With a little creativity it is still possible to get those well-worn messages about the dangers of smoking to both new and existing audiences.

Creativity: 4 Delivery: 4 8/10

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