Smoke-Free Laws: Key Messages

Every smokefree air campaign must develop and consistently promote messages that will
inform and inspire target audiences to take action to pass and implement comprehensive
smokefree laws. According to experienced campaigners:

“You must be clear about the message that you want to get across in all speeches you make or
media you produce… A successful campaign never moves off its message. Do not get diverted
by other issues, especially by opposition attacks.”
The language a campaign chooses is critical. It takes just a few words to frame an issue, but
those few words often determine how effectively the campaign is able to draw popular or
political support.

Successful Campaigns Focus on Core Messages

Through hundreds of campaigns in a number of countries, several core messages have proven
consistently effective:
• “Secondhand smoke is a proven health hazard, not just a nuisance.” This
message frames the campaign in terms of public health, not convenience or manners. In
some countries, educating the public on the proven harms of secondhand smoke will
require considerable work; in other countries, public understanding already exists.
• “Everyone has the right to breathe clean air, free from the proven dangers of
secondhand smoke. No one should have to risk their health in order to earn a
paycheck or enjoy a night out in a restaurant or bar.” This frames the campaign in
terms of basic rights and fair treatment of workers and the public.
• “The only effective way to protect people is to provide 100% smokefree air.
Designated smoking rooms and similar approaches do not work.” This message
focuses on the solution that will work, and rejects ineffective alternatives promoted by
the tobacco industry and its allies.
• “Smokefree air laws work. They are popular, effective, good for the business,
and compliance rates are very high. That is why they are spreading so quickly
worldwide.” This message emphasizes that there is now extensive experience with
smokefree laws around the world, and the results are overwhelmingly positive.

These messages are all evidence-based and form the basis of communications in most
smokefree air campaigns. They can be stated in different ways to reach different audiences.
The effectiveness of these messages has been studied primarily in developed countries. These
messages may be carefully adapted for use in different languages and cultures. However, it is
important to consider differences between jurisdictions, and not to assume that these
messages will work well everywhere.

Developing Tailored Messages for Specialized Audiences
In addition to core messages, specialized or “tailored” messages are essential to win the
support of key audiences. Tailored messages address the special concerns of a particular target
audience. Tailored messages are more dependent on the specific circumstances of each
campaign. Examples of key audiences include:

• Parliamentarians and other elected officials. Most campaigns must convince
elected politicians to support smokefree air legislation. Politicians must be assured that
supporting legislation is the right thing to do as a matter of policy and politics. Polls
showing strong support for the law among the politician’s own constituents can be
especially persuasive and are an example of delivering a tailored message.
• The hospitality industry. In many countries, many owners of restaurants, bars, pubs
and casinos believe misinformation from the tobacco industry about the impact of
smokefree air laws. Smokefree law advocates may be able to win the support of some
members of the hospitality sector by showing how smokefree laws have benefitted the
hospitality sector in similar jurisdictions. Having these messages delivered by hospitality
sector leaders from jurisdictions that have gone smokefree can be especially helpful in
gaining the attention and trust of members of the hospitality sector.
• Employers. Employers need to know that smokefree laws are good for business. Most
employers will support smokefree laws once they understand that the laws are widely
respected, popular with employees, and that employers will see significant benefits such
as higher worker productivity, lower health care costs, lower cleaning and ventilation
costs, reduced fire risk, and fewer days of lost work due to illnesses caused by
secondhand smoke.
• Unions. Unions may be especially responsive to hearing from leaders of unions in
smokefree jurisdictions about how successful and popular smokefree laws have been
with union members in their jurisdictions.
• Religious leaders. All major religions call upon people to avoid health hazards and
religious leaders are often strong supporters of smokefree laws. In some countries,
messages in support of smokefree laws from religious leaders may be effective and
appropriate. However, this is an area that should be approached with caution, guided by
religious tradition and national custom.

The Importance of Testing Messages

Campaign experts have learned that even with familiar issues such as smokefree air laws, it is
important to test messages to make sure that they will have the desired impact on a specific
target audience. When funding allows, experts may be hired to test messages on randomly
selected members of the target audience through focus groups and surveys. If funding does
not allow for such systematic testing, it is still important to “try out” messages on colleagues or
contacts who are members of the targeted group. Advocates are often surprised at how much
they can learn about how their target audience thinks and talks about this issue, and what
specific words and messages will be most persuasive.


First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. Health Service Food and Human Resources: Dutyfree tobacco brands

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