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August 1, 2017

Helping Smoke-free Policies Take Root in Vietnam

In tobacco control, we often note that we use strategic communication for both behavior change and for policy change objectives – but often in our work, the two are closely linked.

The week has been a busy flurry of meetings for our Vietnam team as we work to finalize new smoke-free TV spots, consulting between our production agency, partners at the Vietnam Tobacco Control Fund (VNTCF), the Vietnam Women’s Union, and our PR and earned media agency; not to mention other civil society and road safety program partners.

In 2013, a national smoke-free law came into effect in Vietnam, banning smoking in restaurants and cafes, in indoor workplaces, and on public transit. However, any smoke-free law is only as good as its implementation.  In Vietnam, compliance in smoke-free areas still has its challenges. Messaging to enhance implementation is a natural follow-up to the passage of new smoke-free legislation. As difficult as changing policy is changing social norms.

This issue has inspired the latest communication campaign, developed with our partners at the VNTCF, which will come to fruition at the end of this year.  The campaign centers on a series of TV spots that both focus on the harms of exposure to second-hand smoke, for children and for adults, and importantly, model behavior for non-smokers to speak up and complain about SHS exposure when people smoke where they shouldn’t.

Finalization of these spots, if they are to be as effective as possible, requires significant consultation, with input from VNTCF and several partners on the ground.  From the expressions on actors’ faces, to the visibility and believability of the ambient smoke visual effect, to the size and timing of the quit line information in the end frame, great care needs to be taken to ensure the campaign communicates with its audience in a credible, relevant and persuasive manner.

Broadcast of the ads on national VTV television networks will be part of an integrated multi-channel campaign. This will also use social media, outdoor advertising, and earned media, to engage the audience of non-smokers and smokers with carefully coordinated messaging to deliver a memorable and motivating campaign to support and reinforce Vietnam’s Smoke-free law.

What this policy-based campaign ultimately targets is behavior change – for both smokers and non-smokers.  In places where smoke-free policies have been in place and well-implemented, it becomes the norm not to accept smoking indoors.  Where this is true, non-smokers do not hesitate to complain in spaces where it has become socially unacceptable to smoke.  However, until those norms change, communication campaigns like this latest initiative with VNTCF can work to increase understanding of the harms of SHS and model behavior which can increase social expectation about standing up to protect yourself and particularly children, against this exposure.

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