Stop Before You Start (SBYS) is a non-for profit campaign established by the Health Promotion Agency (HPA), based in New Zealand. Striving towards a smoke-free country by 2025, this campaign targets 17-20 year-olds asking them to ‘think about their relationship with tobacco’ (Health Promotion Agency n.d., para 1), focusing particularly on a ‘social smoking’ setting.
Strategically, one of the main ways SBYS is promoted is through the social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. This is effective because it targets the chosen age group and allows not only New Zealand residents to have access, but also those in other countries. Facebook is almost ubiquitous in popular culture and plays a powerful adjunct role in mass media campaigns. It represents an opportunity for engagement with more than 10 million Facebook users in Australia and almost 50% penetration (Cotter & Durkin 2011).
In all campaign channels – TV, social media and online – a person is featured in a cigarette suit interacting with another person. This concept successfully removes stigmatization of smokers themselves as ‘bad’ people and suggests that rather smoking is a bad relationship with a cigarette. This is important because the greater perceived smoking-related stigma is associated with shame, guilt, increased likelihood of hiding smoking status with health care providers, greater depression and anxiety (Steinberg 2018).
However, this is a challenge as this campaign is about stopping people before they start. Since smoker-related stigma may benefit by dissuading people from taking up smoking to begin with (Stuber & Galea & Link), SBYA promotes negative impacts of smoking through videos, posts, and memes like the ones below.
Although these posts are very ‘relatable’ and ‘funny’, my concern is:
What effect does promoting a serious issue in a humorous way have on people?
In terms of comments, it seems people ‘tag’ their friends in posts which could be naming and shaming or showing them a relatable scenario. However, since the posts are humorous, there is the potential for the smoker to not take it seriously and instead have a good laugh because it is relatable. A social smoker is already not taking smoking as a serious issue and these posts below keep it light-hearted.
The posts are definitely engaging and eye-catching but the impact of the posts need to be reviewed. I would say the impact is how you would measure the success of this campaign. Statistically, SBYS has 4671 followers on Facebook since 2014 and 390 followers on Instagram. This campaign has great potential because of its strong focus on social smokers and will continue to grow by 2025. If the humour is well considered and constructed, then this take on anti-smoking could have a great impact in the long run.
Cotter, T. & Durkin, S. 2011, ‘14.4 Examining the effectiveness of public education campaigns’, in M.M. Scollo & M.H. Winstanley (eds), Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, viewed 11 January 2019, <https://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/14-4-examining-effectiveness-of-public-education-c>.
Health Promotion Agency 2019, Stop Before You Start, New Zealand, 11 Jan 2019, <https://www.stopbeforeyoustart.co.nz/whats-about>.
Steinberg, M. 2017, ‘Harms and Benefits of Stigmatizing Smoking’, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, vol. 20, no. 3, viewed 11 January 2019, <https://academic.oup.com/ntr/article/20/3/275/4609453>.
Stop Before You Start 2018, ‘A couple of puffs and […]’, Facebook post, 26 November, viewed 11 January 2019, <https://www.facebook.com/StopB4UStart/videos/2140130146236651/>.
Stop Before You Start 2018, ‘When your mate tries to[…]’, Facebook post, 14 November, viewed 11 January 2019, <https://www.facebook.com/StopB4UStart/photos/a.1473759962885335/2124878041106854/?type=3&theater>.
Stop Before You Start 2018, ‘Mean night last night bro[…]’, Facebook post, 10 November, viewed 11 January 2019, <https://www.facebook.com/StopB4UStart/photos/a.1473759962885335/1993376747590318/?type=3&theater>.
Stop Before You Start 2018, ‘Saturday night calls to social[…]’, Instagram post, 6 November, viewed 11 January 2019, <https://www.instagram.com/p/Bp0qnSRDZX1/>.
Stop Before You Start 2018, ‘You’re sure it’s just social?’, Facebook post, 30 October, viewed 11 January 2019, <https://www.facebook.com/StopB4UStart/photos/a.1473759962885335/2124842831110375/?type=3&theater>.
Stop Before You Start 2017, ‘Mean night last night bro[…]’, Instagram post, 10 November, viewed 11 January 2019, <https://www.instagram.com/p/BbSzPfbn1qV>.
Stop Before You Start 2017, ‘When your mate goes out[…]’, Instagram post, 21 April, viewed 11 January 2019, <https://www.instagram.com/p/BTIhkTPFPRs>.
Stuber, J. & Galea, S. & Link, B. 2008, ‘Smoking and the emergence of a stigmatized social status’, Social Science Medical, vol. 67, no. 3, viewed 11 January 2019, <http://mathdl.maa.org/mathDL/4/?pa=content&sa=viewDocument&nodeId=507 >.