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Tobacco control advocates must demand high-quality media campaigns: the California experience
  1. Edith D Balbach,
  2. Stanton A Glantz
  1. Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Dr ED Balbach, Community Health Program, Tufts University, 112 Packard Avenue, Medford, Massachusetts 02155, USA;ebalba01{at}


OBJECTIVE To document efforts on the part of public officials in California to soften the media campaign’s attack on the tobacco industry and to analyse strategies to counter those efforts on the part of tobacco control advocates.

METHODS Data were gathered from interviews with programme participants, direct observation, written materials, and media stories. In addition, internal documents were released by the state’s Department of Health Services in response to requests made under the California Public Records Act by Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. Finally, a draft of the paper was circulated to 11 key players for their comments.

RESULTS In 1988 California voters enacted Proposition 99, an initiative that raised the tobacco tax by $0.25 and allocated 20% of the revenues to anti-tobacco education. A media campaign, which was part of the education programme, directly attacked the tobacco industry, exposing the media campaign to politically based efforts to shut it down or soften it. Through use of outsider strategies such as advertising, press conferences, and public meetings, programme advocates were able to counter the efforts to soften the campaign.

CONCLUSION Anti-tobacco media campaigns that expose industry manipulation are a key component of an effective tobacco control programme. The effectiveness of these campaigns, however, makes them a target for elimination by the tobacco industry. The experience from California demonstrates the need for continuing, aggressive intervention by non-governmental organisations in order to maintain the quality of anti-tobacco media campaigns.

  • media campaigns
  • anti-tobacco advocacy
  • California

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