Project Description

Case Study: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

The Problem

Tobacco companies specifically targeted young people with marketing campaigns designed to increase tobacco consumption among minors. Unfortunately, the campaign was effective: about 100,000 children were becoming smokers each year.

Despite a rule by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to severely restrict the ability of tobacco companies to merchandise and market their products to children, there was concern that powerful tobacco industry interests would persuade Congress to overturn the rule.

The Solution

Smith & Harroff initiated a communications plan that exploited the low credibility that tobacco companies have with the public. We designed and produced print, television and radio advertisements for “The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.” The ads contrast the tobacco industry’s denials with strong evidence of its marketing to youngsters. By placing the ads in Washington media and in key congressional districts, Smith & Harroff made congressional members aware of the political risks of overturning the FDA rule. The message forced congressional members to choose between kids’ health and tobacco companies.

The Results

Congress did not block the FDA rule and subsequently a federal judge ruled that the FDA has the power to regulate tobacco. Our ads for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids became a very visible banner to rally support for restricting cigarette advertising and sales to minors. The popular campaign also turned the debate from a question of freedom of speech to one of children’s health and predatory marketing practices.