The history of the National Tobacco Campaign.

Page last updated: 06 March 2013

Tobacco smoking is the single largest preventable cause of premature death and disease in Australia. While smoking prevalence in Australia has declined over time, the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that 2.8 million Australians aged 14 years or older still smoke daily (15.1%). Continued effort is therefore necessary to maintain the decline and reduce the social and economic costs of tobacco use to the community.

In July 1996 an expert advisory group, the Ministerial Tobacco Advisory Group, was appointed to advise the government on future directions in tobacco control and to develop a new anti-smoking campaign.

One of the first tasks of the group was the coordination of a national campaign designed to encourage smokers to quit. As part of the 2005 Budget, funding was committed over four years for a new National Tobacco Campaign to tackle youth smoking rates.

In developing this, extensive research helped determine what activity would have the greatest impact on smokers' behaviour. The result was a media campaign featuring a series of graphic television commercials, supported by various activities by the states and territories.

The coordinated national campaign built upon the earlier success of individual state and territory quit campaigns. These campaigns, which receive funding from both the Australian Government and state and territory governments, provide a service directly to smokers to help them quit smoking. The various quit campaigns also undertake community-level anti-smoking activities, a vital component in a national effort to minimise smoking-induced harm.

The National Tobacco Campaign to date has had outstanding results with a reduction in smoking prevalence across all years since it was launched (23.5% at benchmark in 1997 to 16.6% in 2007). Further, the costs of implementing the National Tobacco Campaign have been more than offset by projected savings to the health system, estimated to be in the order of $24 million. The campaign also showed potential in reaching high-risk groups such as youth.

More information on youth smoking rates can be found in the report Smoking behaviours of Australian secondary students in 2005. Smoking behaviours of Australian secondary students in 2005.

The National Tobacco Campaign has generated considerable international interest with adaptations of the television advertisements being used in the United States, New Zealand, Singapore, Cambodia, Iceland, Poland and Canada. The campaign has received recognition through several industry awards both in Australia and overseas.

The campaign used television and radio commercials, internet, print and outdoor advertising, and public relations strategies to reach non-English-speakers, Indigenous people, and service providers. Considerable upgrading of the national Quitline telephone support service has taken place in conjunction with the campaign.

A later phase of the National Tobacco Campaign was implemented in two main stages. The first stage, the Health Warnings Campaign, was launched on 14 February 2006 to raise awareness of the new system of graphic health warnings on tobacco product packaging. The second stage, the National Tobacco Youth Campaign, commenced on 26 December 2006 and aimed to specifically have an impact on smoking rates among youth.

The key messages of the National Tobacco Youth Campaign encourage:

  • the primary target audience (young people aged 12-24 years) 'to reject smoking'
  • the secondary target audience (smoker parents) 'to quit smoking in order to discourage your children from smoking.
Further information on the National Tobacco Youth Campaign can be found on the Quit Now website.

The anti-smoking campaign was relaunched on 28 February 2010 with the message 'When you smoke you inhale over 4,000 chemicals'.

The campaign encouraged Australians to quit, or to avoid smoking in the future, by prompting them to consider the chemicals they potentially inhale every time they smoke and the long-term damage to their health. The campaign ran for approximately 13 weeks on television, cinema, outdoor, print, digital and radio media.

Currently, the Australian Government has established two social marketing campaigns to encourage current smokers to attempt to quit, support current quit attempts and help smokers reduce their chance of relapse.

The National Tobacco Campaign focuses on all adult smokers ($103 million from 2009-10 to 2015-16).

The National Tobacco Campaign - More Targeted Approach campaign ($27.8 million over four years from 2010-11) is a complementary campaign that aims to reduce the smoking prevalence among high risk and hard to reach groups; including people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, pregnant women and their partners, people living in socially disadvantaged areas, people with mental illness, and prisoners.

From 1 January 2012, the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) took responsibility for the management of the National Tobacco Campaign. Further information on major projects and campaigns currently undertaken by ANPHA is available on the ANPHA website.

The More Targeted Approach Campaign is managed by the Department of Health and Ageing.

Related links

  • National Tobacco Campaign - promotes quit attempts among smokers and provides motivation and support to avoid relapse among quitters.

Page last reviewed: February 2013

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