Anti-smoking campaign in high schools expanded

By Diana Ginsberg

Fifty-one high schools in Ottawa now participate in Exposé, a marketing campaign targeting students to stop smoking. The anti-smoking campaign was originally launched in 2002 as a pilot project in 20 high schools.

“We’re hoping that it’s going to be successful. The thing with tobacco is that it’s not a hot issue with students, but I think this campaign is solid,” says Claudelle Crowe, a public health nurse and one of the co-ordinators of the campaign for Lisgar Collegiate.

Crowe says Exposé differs from previous anti-smoking campaigns because it is delivered by students, rather than having adults preaching the “don’t smoke” message.

According to Exposé campaign information, Ottawa’s goal is to reduce current youth smoking from 21 per cent to 10 per cent by 2012.

Don Hewson, president and CEO of Hewson Bridge & Smith Ltd., the marketing agency involved with the campaign, says it is the largest campaign of its kind in Canada.

The campaign includes posters depicting youths as “replacement smokers” for the tobacco industry, a publication entitled Tomorrow’s Smoker, as well as youth facilitators.

“Our research has shown that teens don’t respond well to messaging that makes the link between smoking and death,” says Hewson.

“They don’t want to be preached at. They want to make the decision around it. From our testing, they want to know the facts so that they can make the educated decision.”

Mohammed Saeed, one of the youth facilitators at Lisgar, says the campaign will positively influence kids, not only to take charge of social issues that affect them, but also to build team work and public speaking skills.

The campaign includes quit-smoking groups, youth action events, youth summits and speakers in classes.

Grace Jarrett, a non-smoking student in Grade 9 at Lisgar Collegiate Institute, says few people at her high school smoke but adds there is a small smoking corner outside her school.

“I don’t think the program will hurt,” says Jarrett. “It’s not going to encourage students to smoke, so it can’t be bad. But I don’t think the campaign is going to work on students. If students want to smoke, they’re going to smoke.”

Hewson says he believes the program will be successful because it is led by young people.

He says that although there are posters, the most successful way to reach youth is through the involvement of peers going into the schools and saying: “Here are the facts. We’re being manipulated and we should do something about it to get the word out.”

Mark Goebel, vice-principal at Lisgar says anti-smoking campaigns are difficult to start up initially because it takes time to find student facilitators.

Saeed, a University of Ottawa student, says an effective campaign must involve the media.

“The tobacco industry spent roughly $300 million on advertisement in the 2002-2003 year and clearly we can’t match those funds, says Saeed. “But unlike them we can be direct and tell the truth and put the facts in people’s hands.”