In 2004 Malaysia rolled out its bold Tak Nak campaign in an effort to cause a public health intervention to the national tobacco problem. They sought to use a counter advertising campaign across all available media to denormalise and deglamourize the national view of smoking. This efforts primary goals were to dissuade a new generation from smoking, reduce the amount of young people taking up smoking and to prompt people who already smoke to quit and seek help during the quitting process from available resources. The program was funded by the government aiming to mitigate future impact on both the public health and economy of the country, the spending allowed advertising on TV, radio, billboards, cinemas as well as print and social media.
Data from the ITC project showed that the success of the campaign lay predominantly in awareness with “The majority (72%) of smokers feel that campaigns make smoking less socially desirable and almost half (43%) of smokers and quitters said that campaigns made them more likely to quit or stay quit.” (ITC National report Malaysia, 2012). We can also see other data supporting the success of the campaign where “Based on a Global Youth Tobacco Survey, smoking prevalence among Malaysians aged 13 to 15 is on a decline, from 20.2 per cent in 2003 to 18.2 percent in 2009 and 14.8 per cent in 2016.” (Arumgam, 2018).
The campaign was utilising a cognitive behavioural model to target the smokers at multiple stages of the behavioural change, this can be seen in the diagram below sourced from Dr Omar’s media dialogue for the ITC.
You can clearly see that the campaign was designed to take into account smokers in all stages of the quitting process from those in the precontemplative stage, those who don’t know that smoking is a problem, to those in the maintenance stage, individuals who have quit and are trying to continue and consolidate good habits. The campaign spanned the process from its use of counter advertising and infomercials which teach those who may not know the ill effects of smoking. It then offered material which helped people to form plans of action with which to excecute their quitting journey to make the first step less intimidating. The other element of the Tak Nak initiative was the MQuit program which offered support to those who are in the process of quitting.
Criticism of the project was limited, researchers found that the impact of the campaign tapered off over time which is common among fear based advertising as the viewer becomes desensitised over numerous exposures (Hong etal. 2013). The authors also believed that the campaigns use of fear worked initially but to truly have a successful campaign you need to tie the information into the social narrative of a place and the Tak Nak campaign failed to change the place of tabacco smoking in Malaysian society.
Arumgam, T. 2018. No smoking campaigns having impact on the young. Viewed 26th November 2018. <https://www.nst.com.my/news/exclusive/2018/02/336525/no-smoking-campaigns-having-impact-young>
Hong, Y.H., Soh, P., Khan, N., Abdullah, M.M., & Heng Teh, B. 2013. Effectiveness of Anti-Smoking Advertising: The Roles of Message and Media. International Journal of Business and Management. 8. 10.5539/ijbm.v8n19p55.
The International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project 2012, ITC Malaysia National Report, March 2012. Viewed 26th November 2018. <https://www.itcproject.org/files/Malaysia_Project_Report_Mar102012-FINAL-web.pdf>
Omar, M. 2007. Tak Nak Anti-Tabacco Media Campaign in Malaysia. ITC Project files. Viewed 26th November 2018. <https://www.itcproject.org/files/Omar._2007._Tak-Nak_anti-tobacco_media_campaign_in_Malaysia._APACT.pdf>