Anti-smoking mass media campaigns have been a feature of Australia's tobacco-control landscape since the early 1970s, when the then Director of the Cancer Council Victoria, Dr Nigel Gray, produced a series of low-budget advertisements highlighting the health consequences of smoking. In the late 1970s, one of the world's first evaluated anti-smoking mass media campaigns was trialled in Australia on the New South Wales Central Coast. In 1983, when the 'Sponge' commercial first used in the Central Coast campaign was aired in New South Wales as part of the 'Quit. For Life' Campaign1 it proved to be highly successful and was associated with a 1% decrease in smoking prevalence in Sydney, a significant change when compared with Melbourne (which did not introduce a Quit campaign until the following year), where the prevalence did not decline.2
State-based campaigns, particularly in Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, continued the practice of using formative research to guide the development of media campaigns and surveys to evaluate their impact. Research-based campaigns in Australia quickly became a key component of tobacco-control efforts.
After some years of experimentation with different styles and messages, Australia's first truly national campaign, the National Tobacco Campaign, was launched in 1997 and heralded the return of 'scare tactics' to communication about the harms of smoking. The National Tobacco Campaign has set the tone for research, development and evaluation of public health campaigns at the national and state/territory level since that time. Australia has become well recognised internationally for its mass media campaigns. The World Lung Foundation reviewed hundreds of advertisements highlighting the health consequences of smoking for its mass media resource to identify those proven to be most effective. Of the 21 selected, 13 were Australian.
This chapter describes Australia's history and progress in running mass media campaigns to discourage smoking and some of what has been learnt along the way. It also presents the latest evidence for running mass media campaigns: Australian and international, the context of such campaigns within comprehensive tobacco-control programs, optimal funding, and opportunities and challenges ahead.
1. Pierce J, Dwyer T, Frape G, Chapman S, Chamberlain A and Burke N. Evaluation of the Sydney 'Quit For Life' anti-smoking campaign. Part 1. Achievement of intermediate goals. Medical Journal of Australia 1986;144(7):341–4. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3959949
2. Dwyer T, Pierce J, Hannam C and Burke N. Evaluation of the Sydney 'Quit for Life' anti-smoking campaign. Part 2. Changes in smoking prevalence. Medical Journal of Australia 1986;144(7):344–7. Available from: http://lib.bioinfo.pl/pmid:3959949