Post B – CDC Anti-Smoking Campaign

Anti-smoking campaigns need to target a specific audience, and use hard-hitting emotional tactics to successfully inspire a change in behaviour. It has long been thought that most campaigns are aimed at the family or friends of the smoker, who have more leverage than the often ignorant and stubborn smokers themselves.

In Williams’ and Allan’s study, it is proposed that marginalised communities are more likely to resist smoking campaigns. The behaviours associated with smoking ‘signify risk taking, independence, and an anti-authoritarian attitude.’ [Pampel 2006]. this temperament is among the most difficult to approach with marketing tactics, as it is all about resistance, and is often formed via cultural influences. Smoking is encouraged in the ‘inter-exchange and sharing of tobacco; sharing between family and friends may act as reinforcement.’ [Williams & Allan 2014, pg 4].

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2012 campaign featuring anti-smoking advocate Terrie Hall depicts the harsh, unglamorous, confronting reality of the potential, and more importantly, preventable, effects of smoking. It is done through a harrowingly personal recount of her experience of tobacco-related disease in a series of public service announcements titled “Terrie’s tips”. She speaks with a horrifying rasp using an artificial voicebox, and takes us through her daily routine, allowing us to compare our own. The repeated message “she was 53” throughout the campaign emphasises Terrie’s lost opportunities and the tragedy of her premature death. The print advertisement (shown below) highlights the tragedy of losing something so paramount as speaking; torn away by a preventable action.


“My fear now is that I won’t be around to see my grandchildren graduate or get married.”[9]

To target the “thoroughly integrated, embedded behaviour” [Booth-Butterfield, 2003] that is smoking, the approach must be evocative and realistic, as fear-based appeals can lead to rejection of the message and trigger a defensive response [Devlin 2007]. Terrie’s campaign drove 1.6 million smokers to try to quit, and helped more than 100,000 to succeed, inspiring millions of others to encourage friends and family members to quit. The initiative was eminent in that it was the first ever federally-funded national anti-smoking campaign. Healthcare costs related to smoking reached $93 million in 2013, and it remains the number one cause of preventable death in America.

From the CDC campaign, it is evident that an emotionally distressing personal narrative, combined with a sustained coverage, is effective in encouraging smokers to quit. Sandhu (2009) described strategic communication in this context as multidisciplinary “intentional” communication that requires a purposeful actor. The choice of Terrie, who dedicated most of her life in various anti-smoking pursuits, was an apt choice and a brave human to bare her experiences on the line to reach out to others.

Mahoney, J. (2010). Strategic communication and anti-smoking campaigns. [online] 1, pp.33-48. Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017].

Williams, M. and Allan, J. (2014). Smoke signals: An investigation of anti-smoking communication within marginalised communities within the health system. An outline research proposal. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017]. (2017). Terrie Hall. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017].

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Terrie’s Story. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017].

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Terrie’s Tips Print Ad. [image] Available at: Mahoney, J. (2010). Strategic communication and anti-smoking campaigns. [online] 1, pp.33-48. Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017]. [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017].

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