No Smoking Day (NSD) has led the way for stop smoking and tobacco control campaigns in the UK and worldwide since 1984. When No Smoking Day began, UK smoking rates were 33% of adults. Now smoking rates are around the 20% mark and the emphasis has shifted to encouraging smokers to quit for good rather than just for the day.
How it works
No Smoking Day seeks to attract maximum publicity for smoking and health at minimum cost by creating news stories, photo opportunities and fun events. A network of organisers supports the campaign at a local level by helping smokers who want to stop smoking and by organising interactive events. The campaign supports these activities with the materials, ideas and assistance. No Smoking Day has consistently reached high levels of public awareness among smokers and the public in general. In the early days, No Smoking Day was one of just a few health awareness days. Now there are hundreds of similar campaigns which make it harder to compete but the battle must go on.
So what are the secrets of No Smoking Day’s longevity and success? As someone who has been involved since the beginning, I consider a key factor in NSD’s success was the bringing together of a coalition of health agencies, charities and professional bodies across the UK onto the coordinating committee. This brought together the knowledge, commitment and creativity of most of the key players in public health. This included the Health Education Authority, Quit and ASH, cancer, heart and lungs charities and professional representatives such as the pharmacists and physicians. But it was the network of enthusiastic local organisers who support No Smoking Day that has really given the campaign its OOOOMPH!
An important component of the campaign’s perennial success is the annual theme, slogan and image that offers a fun, fresh and friendly approach to encouraging smokers to quit. The theme offers an opportunity to create events and news stories that attract national and local media attention encouraging smokers to stop in a fun and fresh way. The campaign ingredients are coalition and alliance building, consultation with smokers and local organisers, good PR and communication, creative themes, keeping people involved and evaluation of all aspects of the campaign. No Smoking Day created a tried and tested campaign template that has led the way for the UK’s success in tobacco control. Using a similar NSD formula, campaigns to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship, to create smokefree workplaces, to remove point of sale displays, raise the age of sale and to offer free services to help smokers to stop have all been successful.
The changing landscape
No Smoking Day has changed status from a coalition, then a charity and has recently been taken in-house by one of the founding campaign members, the British Heart Foundation. Smoking rates have reduced since the 1980s but there is there is still work to be done as one in five adults is still smoking. Once again, we need to pull out the stops to make No Smoking Day 2014 a victory! Local organisers have always been creative in applying the theme to maximum effect in order to attract publicity and inspire smokers to take up the challenge.
Victory will be ours
This year’s theme is a really inspiring one! V for Victory is the slogan and the image shows a hand crushing a pack of cigarettes whilst making a V for Victory sign. Smokers wanting to quit were involved in discussions to find the most relevant approach to this year’s campaign. Many commented on the love/hate relationship that many smokers said they have with smoking. People see smoking as a friend but also an enemy. Many ex-smokers admit that even though it was hard, quitting was a battle worth fighting and winning. The Victory theme sets out to show that they are not alone in the struggle. The NSD posters include the line; “In the battle against cigarettes we can help you win.” So local organisers need to rally their troops and prepare for a full scale advance on the remaining 20%.
Making it work in 2014
There are lots of resources and event ideas that can support your events and lots of ideas to attract publicity and motivate smokers. See below for links to inspire and support you. The concept of Victory can be used in many ways. Quit for Victory or Victory Quit & Get Fit can be a call to action and Victory Voices can showcase testimonials of ex-smokers celebrating their ‘victorious’ achievement. Victory can be used to test visual, verbal and vigour skills. Challenges include: Victory Volleyball, Victory Strictly (dancing), The Victory Voice (singing), Dig for Victory (gardening), Victory Verse (poetry), Victoree Karaoke (smokefree versions of well known songs), Victory Tips (best quit tips), Victory Story (short story), Victory Tweet (quit tips in 140 characters), and Great Victory Bake Off (baking).
The V for Victory sign and the V itself offers great photo opportunities. Smokers signing up to quit can make the V for Victory sign. A group of stop smoking advisors wearing red NSD t-shirts can stand in a giant V shape. Or make a large V from the No Smoking Day resources or crushed cigarette packets.
Let battle commence!