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Vital Stories

Crafting Campaigns for Tobacco-Free Holidays

By Benjamín González Rubio Aguilar, Communication Manager in Mexico, Kaloi Garcia, Communication Manager in the Philippines, and Yosef Rabindanata, Social Media Officer in Indonesia.

Campaigns associated with holidays can help engage the public in promoting healthy policies and behaviors and shape customs and habits.

During this year’s Spring Festival in China, in partnership with China CDC and the National Health Commission, Vital Strategies launched the digital campaign “Smoke-Free Spring Festival” to support smoke-free legislation and change norms about the custom of giving cigarettes as gifts during the Chinese New Year holiday.

This poster from the “Giving Cigarettes Is Giving Harm” campaign was distributed throughout the China CDC system, from the national to local level.

We promoted our public service announcement “Giving Cigarettes Is Giving Harm,” which aired several years ago to great success. “You think you’re giving your friends blessings,” the voiceover says in part. “But in reality, you’re giving lung cancer and respiratory system ailments.” At the time, half of those who intended to buy cigarettes as gifts said they no longer would after viewing the ad.

Last year, our teams in Mexico, Indonesia and the Philippines joined forces on a special holiday campaign to promote the voices of people asking for clean, smoke-free air and to draw attention to the urgent need for enforcement of smoke-free laws in schools, restaurants, churches and other public spaces.

While Mexico’s capital and most populous city, Mexico City, has one of the most advanced tobacco control laws in the country, some restaurants, bars, coffee shops and even schools and public transportation do not comply with the 100% smoke-free regulations. Across all public spaces there is a lack of enforcement of the ban on smoking; for example, restaurants and other eating and drinking establishments have been known to institute false terraces, which are partially enclosed outdoor areas where smoking is permitted and patrons and passersby are subject to secondhand smoke.

Poor compliance with smoke-free laws is an issue across the country. According to the most recent National Survey of Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption, more than 50% of people are exposed to secondhand smoke in bars, 35.3% are exposed in restaurants and 22.6% in schools—where the health and lives of children and youth are put at risk.

In the Philippines, smoking is banned in the majority of indoor and outdoor premises, including schools. However, the most recent Global Youth Tobacco Survey, which surveys youth 13-15 who are enrolled in schools about their tobacco use, found that 16% of students in the Philippines use tobacco products and 11% of those students smoke at school. Of the total respondents, 72.5% had witnessed others smoking within school grounds, demonstrating that the ban on smoking at schools needs to be better enforced.

In Indonesia, there is a national smoke-free law and smoke-free laws in almost 400 cities or 77.2% of the total cities in the country. There are seven areas that are required to be smoke-free including places of worship. However, enforcement is often lacking. Many churches, mosques and temples do not hang smoke-free signs as they are required to by the law, and worshippers still smoke because they are not aware of the regulations. 

To bring attention to the need for improved smoke-free enforcement, we launched a campaign around the Christmas holidays to promote the enforcement of 100% smoke-free schools and churches. Through the campaign, which used the hashtags #Christmas2Quit and #SmokeFreeHolidays, people in each country—particularly children and youth—expressed their hopes for air that is clear of tobacco smoke within their homes and in public places.

In Mexico, through a partnership with the government of Mexico City we launched a Christmas card contest to provide a platform where children and youth could voice their right to attend to smoke-free places. The messages in the cards called for better enforcement of tobacco control laws.

A Christmas card submitted as part of the campaign in Mexico says: “My wish this Christmas is: to be able to breathe pure, clean air forever and always.”

In Indonesia, our team partnered with The Communion of Churches to launch a digital campaign on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter throughout the holiday season. The campaign focused on efforts to improve enforcement of smoke-free laws in churches and to raise awareness of the increased risk associated with using tobacco and severe COVID-19.

In the Philippines, our team partnered with the Department of Education and the Philippine Pediatric Society for a five-week campaign to create awareness among teachers and students about the harmful effects of smoking/vaping and to support the enforcement of smoke-free schools across the country.

In total, the campaign reached more than 2.5 million people across all three countries.

Conducting these campaigns showed the many possibilities in connecting communication tied to holidays, which focus on family and loved ones, with tobacco control policies that protect the people we care about.

For more information about Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control, please visit:

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About Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control:

Vital Strategies works globally and in more than 40 countries to support the adoption of proven policies to reduce tobacco use. Our global team of experts use policy, advocacy and strategic communication to help governments adopt lifesaving, public health “best buys” like comprehensive smoke-free laws and high tobacco taxes.

Our evidence-based public education campaigns have been seen by more than 2 billion people around the world. We partner with American Cancer Society to produce The Tobacco Atlas, (sixth ed.) the most comprehensive report on the evolving global tobacco epidemic, and support production of WHO’s MPOWER reports.

Vital Strategies is a main partner in the $1 billion Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use and a partner in the global tobacco industry watchdog, STOP.