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Brussels, 16 June 2011

Q&A: “Ex-smokers are Unstoppable” campaign

Why is the European Commission launching a campaign to help people stop smoking?

Tobacco is the single largest cause of avoidable death in the EU, accounting for around 650 000 premature deaths per year.

Successful tobacco control must tackle the problem from every conceivable angle. Tobacco awareness campaigns are an important element of the Commission's comprehensive tobacco control policy which also includes legislation and support to Member States.

What is the “Ex-smokers are Unstoppable” campaign?

“Ex-smokers are unstoppable” is the new 3 year awareness raising campaign promoted by the European Commission. The campaign aims to provide smokers with motivation to quit and - very importantly - with practical help. It celebrates ex-smokers and portrays them as inspiring role models to encourage current smokers to quit.

What are the campaign's objectives?

The campaign aims to highlight the positive benefits of giving up smoking and to encourage and assist people to quit. Along with other preventive measures at the European and national levels, the campaign seeks to contribute to ensuring that new generations live longer and healthier lives in a smoke-free Europe.

Who is the target audience?

The campaign is aimed at smokers between 25 and 34 years old, which represents nearly 28 million people in the EU. It aims to help both young adults who may have already considered stopping smoking, and smokers who currently have no intention to quit. The campaign will be tailored to national and demographic audiences. For example, it will pay particular attention to specific groups such as women and lower socio-economic groups.

What makes this campaign unique?

The approach of the “Ex-smokers are Unstoppable” campaign is unique in so far as it does not just focus on the negative effects of smoking like traditional campaigns do. Rather, it emphasises the benefits of quitting the habit and highlights the inspirational achievements of ex-smokers to motivate smokers to stop.

In addition, it actually provides smokers with practical help with quitting, through the innovative iCoach tool.

What is special about the iCoach?

The iCoach is an online health coach that helps people quit smoking at their own pace. It is free and will be available in all EU languages. The iCoach works by analysing the smoking habits of its participants and provides tailored advice on a daily basis. Smokers seeking to quit can use its numerous interactive tools, such as a diary to monitor daily progress and mini-tests. At the end of each month, iCoach compiles a report which provides feedback on the user's progress as well as additional advice to facilitate process and encourage the user to quit smoking for good.

Who is involved in the organisation of campaign activities?

Together with the European Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumers, numerous national and EU-level organisations – including national ministries, health associations and NGOs – will be actively involved in the campaign. Many activities undertaken throughout the campaign will be organised on a national and local basis in each EU Member State. In order to avoid overlap and increase efficiency and synergies, the campaign is intended to dovetail with national awareness-raising measures already underway and will involve the organisation of joint activities. The campaign website provides a special section for organisations who want to support their members to quit smoking.

What types of tools and media will the campaign use?

The channels that will be used to reach the target audience throughout the campaign will include advertising (print, online and TV) and social media. The campaign includes a website in all EU languages, 27 national Facebook pages, an on-line i-Coach, and national activities throughout the 27 Member States including event partnerships, an Ambassadors' programme, and media relations.

Is this the first tobacco control campaign the Commission has launched?

No, the European Commission has promoted smoking cessation campaigns since 2002.

The first one, "Feel free to say no" ran from 2002 to 2004. This led to the "Help: for a life without tobacco" campaign which ran from 2005 to 2010. The "Help" campaign focused on smoking prevention, smoking cessation and passive smoking and targeted, in particular, young Europeans between 15 and 25 years old.

The new campaign "Ex-smokers are unstoppable" is a natural progression and shifts the focus from the dangers of smoking to the advantages of quitting smoking.

What else is the EU doing on tobacco control?

The EU and national authorities work together on tobacco control.

A central pillar of tobacco control is EU legislation on tobacco products and on tobacco advertising. These laws facilitate the free movement of goods in the internal market and ensure a high level of public health protection. The European Commission is in charge of developing, improving and overseeing the implementation of these laws.

The Directive on Tobacco Products (2001) requires manufacturers to put warnings on tobacco products, bans misleading terms such as ‘light', ‘mild', or ‘low tar', obliges manufacturers to provide information on ingredients, bans oral tobacco and sets maximum limits for tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes.

The Commission plans to put forward a proposal for the revision of the 2001 Tobacco Products Directive in 2012, to strengthen and adapt it to developments of tobacco products as well as advances in science.

The Directive on Tobacco Advertising (2003) bans cross-border advertising of tobacco products in printed media, radio, and online services. It also bans sponsorship of cross-border events. In addition, tobacco advertising and sponsorship on television has already been prohibited since 1989.

For other areas of tobacco control such as prevention, cessation and smoke-free environments, responsibility for providing the appropriate rules and structures lies with individual Member States. In these areas, the EU's role is to support, complement and coordinate national efforts. The EU has made the following recommendations to Member States:

Council Recommendation on Smoking Prevention (2003), which encourages Member States to control all forms of tobacco promotion and sales to minors, as well as to improve awareness and health education.

Council Recommendation on Smoke-Free Environments (2009), which calls on Member States to adopt and implement laws to protect citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces, and public transport. It also calls for the enhancement of smoke-free laws with supporting measures such as protecting children, encouraging efforts to quit smoking and having pictorial warnings on cigarette packages.

Where can I find out more?

On the "Ex-smokers are unstoppable" website, available in all EU languages

See also IP/11/710

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