National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018: Draft for consultation

6.1 Strengthen social marketing campaigns to motivate smokers to quit; discourage uptake of smoking; and reshape social norms

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Social marketing approaches have been implemented in Australia since the 1970s as a strategy to reduce tobacco use.9 There is a solid body of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of well funded sustained mass media campaigns in changing smoking behaviours.35 The extensive review by the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) in August 2008 concluded that mass media campaigns are effective in reducing smoking and have an even greater impact when conducted as part of a comprehensive tobacco control program.35

In addition to educating smokers and the community about the harms of smoking, mass media campaigns can set the agenda for discussion, change smoking attitudes and beliefs, increase quitting intentions and quit attempts, and reduce adult smoking prevalence.35 There is also strong evidence that adult-targeted mass media campaigns can influence uptake of smoking by young people, change young people’s attitudes about tobacco use and curb smoking initiation,35 and thus are likely to be a major factor behind the marked reduction in smoking prevalence among youth over the past 12 years.

Article 12 of the FCTC requires each Party to promote and strengthen public awareness of tobacco control issues, using all available communication tools.26 Evidence also confirms the effectiveness of these campaigns for low socioeconomic groups. Evaluation of the National Tobacco Campaign reveals that changes in smoking rates among low socioeconomic groups were of a similar magnitude to changes among high socioeconomic groups. Between 1997 and 1999, prevalence fell 3.9 percentage points in blue-collar groups and 3.7 percentage points in white collar groups.36 A review of the literature in 2008 concluded that media campaigns can be equally effective with low and higher SES groups but that attention must be paid to the placement and style of advertising.37

There is strong evidence that the effectiveness of mass media is also highly dependent on the level of investment in placing the campaign on air.32 To maximise effectiveness these messages need to be broadcast at a sufficient volume and at regular intervals to influence smokers’ quitting cognition and behaviour.38

In 2010, the Australian Government announced a significant increase in funding for anti smoking social marketing campaigns - more than $85 million over four years. The Australian National Preventive Health Agency will coordinate and implement a national approach to social marketing programs. The revitalised National Tobacco Campaign was launched by the Minister for Health and Ageing on 30 January 2011.

This enhanced funding for mass media campaigns will deliver benefits in terms of reduced smoking prevalence, particularly when combined with the recent increases in tobacco excise. The National Tobacco Campaign also provides the opportunity to build on existing social marketing campaigns implemented by States and Territories. It is being complemented by targeted campaigns funded by the Australian Government.

Recent evidence confirms the importance of mass media campaigns in changing social norms and preventing relapse among smokers who have recently quit.39 Mass media campaigns can reduce the very high risk of relapse that occurs in the time window soon after a quit attempt is made. This indicates that mass media campaigns need to be on air frequently to maximise their benefit to recent quitters.39 Research suggests that mass media campaigns aired at or near the time of implementation of other tobacco control policies that promote quit attempts could also improve the longer term success of those quit attempts.39