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Brussels, 26 May 2005

Commission launches TV ad campaign to promote a life without tobacco

To mark UN World No Tobacco Day (31 May), the European Commission has unveiled the next phase of its ‘HELP’ anti-smoking campaign – an EU-wide TV adverting campaign that seeks to “de-normalise” the deadly habit. By substituting cigarettes with party-whistles in three every day situations, the adverts show the abnormality of smoking and the problems it poses. The aim of the campaign is to show that help is available to those addicted to, vulnerable to or affected by smoking. The advertisements do not condemn smokers and young people but instead focus the ridicule on the cigarette itself. Markos Kyprianou, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, today presented the adverts to the press, which form part of the EU anti-smoking campaign “HELP: For a Life Without Tobacco” (see IP/05/225). In addition to the adverts which will run on TV stations throughout the 25 EU Member States from 7 June, the Commissioner also launched the ‘HELP’ web site and provided an update on the progress of the campaign. In a separate development the Commission has adopted enabling legislation to introduce “picture warnings” on cigarette packs, including pictures of blackened lungs and rotten teeth (see IP/04/1284).

Markos Kyprianou, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said: “Most older smokers know that spending money on a habit that is going to kill them is ridiculous. But young people in particular are more vulnerable to the “spin” put out by the tobacco industry and can feel pressurised to start smoking in order to be accepted as “cool” by their peers. These adverts aim to turn the tables on the tobacco industry by showing that tobacco is not cool, glamorous – or even normal. By using humour, the campaign seeks to highlight how ridiculous smoking really is, while sending a serious message that people can get help to lead a life without tobacco.

The three adverts depict a teenager under pressure from his peers to start smoking, an adult smoker longing to quit and a non-smoker enduring other people’s smoke at a party. However, in each case the smokers are pictured blowing on party whistles rather than smoking cigarettes. Extensive pre-testing showed that the target groups clearly understood that this substitution aims to ridicule smoking.

The adverts close with the message that help is available and publicise the HELP campaign website This site contains information in 20 EU languages on how to quit smoking, how to resist pressure to start and organisations in each of the 25 EU countries that can help with these problems.

The advertisements will run in two waves, starting on 7 June with a second phase in September. Before the adverts are aired, each Member State will have been visited by the HELP campaign roadshow.

Picture Warnings

The enabling legislation adopted by the Commission means that Member States which so wish can take up the option to illustrate the standard EU health warnings on tobacco products using images from a database developed by the Commission. Belgium, Ireland, Latvia and the UK have already expressed interest in doing so.

Further information


For more information see also MEMO/05/174.

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