At a glance: Government and brands in anti-smoking campaigns spotlight

Is this to do with those fish-hook ads? Yes, the gruesome billboard, TV and online ads – depicting people with a fish hook through their cheek – were launched as the new year daw­ned as part of the Department of Heal­th’s campaign to stop people smo­king. Public health minister Car­oline Flint wants to catch people with New Year resolutions still fresh in the mind.

So what message is it pushing in particular?
The way nicotine addic­tion controls smokers. Figures used in the campaign include the suggestion that the average smoker needs more than 5,000 cigarettes a year, plus the DoH says 70 per cent of ex-smokers are now happier than when they were smoking. If that seems on the soft side, try this: ‘The nicotine in cigarette smoke can be as addictive as heroin.’

Did the health minister say that?
No. Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London, is saying it as part of the gover­nment campaign. The ads are supp­orted by direct mail and a dedi­cated website with advice on brea­king tobac­co addiction. DoH head of cam­paigns Fiona Samson is leading PR.

Remind me what branded smoking cessation products there are…
OTC products are the ‘three Nics’: Novartis Consumer Healthcare’s Nicotinell, GlaxoSmith­Kline’s NiQuitin CQ, and Pfizer’s Nicorette (which has just been sold to Johnson & Johnson). Toniq handles consumer and trade work for Nico­tinell and had a four-page adver­torial in The Sun last week in support of the ‘lose the smoke, keep the fire’ ad campaign. Cohn & Wolfe Healthcare holds the NiQuitin CQ account, and Shire Health London, which has the Nicorette brief, last month launched ActiveStop – a programme that offers help via mobile phone and online.

What role do PR campaigns play in getting people to quit?
The DoH says that adult smoking rates in England have fallen from 28 per cent in 1988 to 25 per cent in 2004 – which means 1.2 million fewer smokers. The extent to which PR campaigns have been responsible for this would be some­what tricky to measure to say the least.

And there is, of course, a legislative context to smoking cessation in 2007, right?
Indeed. The ban on smoking in public places comes into effect in England and Wales in July.

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