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Vital Strategies’ Quit Big Tobacco Campaign will be Featured at SXSW 2020

Health, advertising leaders to tackle vaping and tobacco issues

(New York, USA) –  Vital Strategies announced today that its Quit Big Tobacco (QBT) campaign was selected to be a part of SXSW® 2020, which provides an influential platform to urge marketers to cut ties with the tobacco industry. With advertising and public relations driving a teen vaping epidemic and hampering efforts to reduce smoking worldwide, Quit Big Tobacco attempts to unite health brands and creative agencies to fight for a tobacco-free future. ‘Is Purpose Driven Marketing Going up in Smoke?’ will showcase how ethical, health-conscious partnerships can advance a healthier world. The QBT session will take place during the Advertising and Brand Experience Track, March 13-18, 2020. 

Leaders working to cut ties between marketing and Big Tobacco on the Vital panel include:

“Five years ago, CVS Health quit selling all tobacco products and made a commitment to help people lead tobacco-free lives,” said Norman de Greve, Chief Marketing Officer for CVS Health. “Big tobacco is on the rise, driven by new channels that directly target our youth – including leveraging social media and influencers. Through this SXSW® panel, we will continue to urge health companies to lead with their values and cut ties from big tobacco.”

“Marketing is a root cause of the tobacco and vaping epidemic,” said Steve Hamill, Vice President, Vital Strategies. “Quit Big Tobacco unites brands and agencies in a pledge not to work with the tobacco industry or partner with those who do. The world’s leading companies are saying that success is worth more than shareholder value and we hope to convince an influential audience of values-driven brands and agencies to align with health and to reject big tobacco.”

At a time when consumers demand social IQ from their brands, ad and marketing agencies and health conscious brands face a new challenge: social good or profits? our panel session, “Is Purpose Driven Marketing Going Up In Smoke?” will discuss the evolving landscape of tobacco, including alternative products, and how the Quit Big Tobacco campaign is using collective action to drive social change. Attendees will also hear from industry leaders on opportunities for how brands, agencies and marketers can lead with health-conscious values. 

“As the youth e-cigarette epidemic worsens and an emboldened tobacco industry mounts its ‘charm offensive’ to disguise the fact that it kills millions by selling more than 5.4 trillion cigarettes each year, the advertising community has a critical choice to make,” said Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative. “Work for the tobacco industry to legitimize and spread deception. Or be a force for good by refusing to help place a generation at risk for a lifetime of addiction and disease.” 

“Tobacco is trying to rebrand as an industry with a conscience using the tech disguise of e-cigs, while America’s teen vaping epidemic is spreading under our noses,” said Anne Elisco-Lemme, executive creative director at Duncan Channon, the agency that created the nation’s first campaign to take on flavored tobacco for the California Department of Public Health. “Ad agencies who had shut their doors to cigarette brands are now being reapproached to market new tobacco products that look like flash drives and taste like candy. If an agency won’t take on a cigarette brand as a client, they shouldn’t take on a vape brand. They are one in the same now.”

Launched in March 2018, Quit Big Tobacco urges organizations to pledge not to work with the tobacco industry, or the advertising and PR companies that help Big Tobacco market its products. More than 275 agencies and brands have already signed on to the campaign—brand, advertising and marketing leaders like CVS Health, Truth Initiative, Crispin Porter Bogusky, MDC Partners, Edelman, GSD&M and many more.

Quit Big Tobacco’s panel will take place during the Advertising and Brand Experience Track, March 13 – 18, 2020, at SXSW in Austin, Texas. 

For more information on the panel session, visit:

For more information about Vital Strategies’ Quit Big Tobacco and to sign our pledge, visit

About Quit Big Tobacco 

Tobacco companies spend over US $1 million per hour on marketing. #QuitBigTobacco brings together advertising and public relations agencies, as well as organizations that value health, to address the role of marketing in the tobacco epidemic and deny the tobacco industry the creative talent they rely on to hook the next generation. Since launching in 2018, more than 175 companies have taken the pledge, including Truth Initiative, World Heart Federation, Crispin Porter Bogusky, MDC Partners, and Ketchum. Our first corporate partner, CVS, joined #QuitBigTobacco in the spring of 2019. 

To find out more, please visit or Twitter @quitbigtobacco.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible.

To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

Media Contact(s):
Ally Davis:, +1-516-205-4203
Christina Honeysett:, +1-917-720-4775