National Tobacco Campaign

The history of the National Tobacco Campaign.

Page last updated: 10 May 2018


Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability in Australia and was estimated to kill almost 19,000 Australians in 2011.1

The Australian Government, together with state and territory governments, is committed to reducing the prevalence of tobacco smoking and its associated health, social and economic costs, and the inequalities it causes.2

National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018

The National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018, Part Six: Priority Areas and Actions, 6.2 states:

“Strengthen mass media campaigns to: motivate smokers to quit and recent Quitters to remain quit; discourage uptake of smoking; and reshape social norms about smoking.”

World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco

As a Party to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco3, Australia is determined to give priority to their right to protect public health. Article 12, Education Communication, training and public awareness states:

“Each Party shall promote and strengthen public awareness of tobacco control issues, using all available communication tools, as appropriate. …”

The history of the National Tobacco Campaign

Australian Governments have a successful history of undertaking a comprehensive range of initiatives designed to contribute to a reduction in the prevalence of smoking. As part of Australia’s comprehensive approach to tobacco control, social marketing campaigns have contributed to outcomes such as: preventing initiation, encouraging cessation, mobilising community support to legitimise the passage of tobacco control policies, and contributing towards shifting cultural and social norms.

In July 1996, a Ministerial Tobacco Advisory Group was appointed to advise the Australian Government on future directions in tobacco control. One of the first tasks was to coordinate a National Tobacco Campaign (the Campaign) designed to encourage smokers to quit.

Extensive research has been undertaken to help determine communication approaches that have the greatest impact on the target audience’s smoking behaviour.

1997 to 2004

The Campaign launched in June 1997 with the aim to reduce the prevalence of smoking among 18 to 40 year old Australians. The first phase, ‘Every Cigarette is Doing you Damage’ focused on the immediate damage smoking has on the body. It consisted of seven television commercials including Artery, Lung, Tumour, Brain, Call for Help, Tar and Eye.

Four health effects advertisements, Artery, Lung, Tumour and See the damage, were developed as radio advertisements to reinforce the information depicted in the television advertisements. Five additional radio advertisements; Cravings, Coffee break, Money, Recovery rate and Call Quit first were developed to provide support for dealing with cravings and avoiding triggers, and outlined the benefits of quitting such as financial savings, and reversal of disease processes.

The Campaign received support and commitment from the Health Ministers of every Australian Government as well as the key non-government groups involved in tobacco control.4 The Campaign ran from June to November 1997 and was the most intensive and longest running anti-tobacco campaign Australia had seen. The Campaign generated considerable international interest with adaptations of the ‘Every Cigarette is Doing you Damage’ television advertisements being used in the United States, New Zealand, Singapore, Cambodia, Iceland, Poland and Canada.

The Campaign has received recognition through several industry awards both in Australia and overseas.

2005 to 2010

As part of the 2005 Federal Budget, funding was committed over four years for a new campaign aimed at youth smoking rates.

A media campaign featuring a series of graphic health warnings was launched and supported by various activities undertaken by states and territories. Two new phases were launched in 2006.

The first phase, the ‘Health Warnings Campaign’, was launched to raise awareness of the new graphic health warnings approach on tobacco product packaging. The second phase, the ‘National Tobacco Youth Campaign’ aimed to specifically have an impact on smoking rates among youth.

This campaign was relaunched in 2010 encouraging Australians to consider the 4000 chemicals inhaled from a cigarette and the long-term damage on their health.

The 2009-2010 Federal Budget provided funding over four years (2009-2013) under the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health for a national social marketing campaign to raise awareness about the risks of tobacco smoking in the development of chronic disease. The campaign focused on encouraging a reduction in smoking amongst all adult smokers.

Further funding from 2011 to 2014 was provided by the Australian Government for a complementary campaign, the ‘National Tobacco Campaign’ – ‘More Targeted Approach’.

Australian National Preventive Health Agency

The Australian National Preventive Health Agency (the Agency) was a statutory authority responsible for supporting the development and implementation of evidence-based approaches to preventive health initiatives targeting obesity, harmful alcohol consumption and tobacco.

In 2013-2014 the Agency delivered a comprehensive and coordinated national social marketing approach, raising awareness of the harms of smoking and provided motivation to quit and support, through Stop Before the Suffering Starts. The Campaign was an extension of previous Australian Government anti-smoking messaging and highlighted the significant impact that smoking related illnesses have on smokers and their families.

The Agency developed My QuitBuddy, a free smartphone application (app) created to assist smokers to quit. When a user chooses to quit, the app can track how many cigarettes they have not smoked, how much money they have saved and how many smoke-free days. There is a community forum that allows quitters to share their quit stories.

The Agency ceased operating from 1 July 2014. Preventive health measures were transferred to the Department of Health (the Department) on 1 July 2014.

2011 to 2015

National Tobacco Campaign – More Targeted Approach

The ‘More Targeted Approach’ ran from 2011 to 2014 and provided tailored information for pregnant women and their partners, culturally and linguistically diverse groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people living in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, people with mental illness and prisoners.

The ‘More Targeted Approach’ ran from 2011 to 2014 and provided tailored information these audiences.


The Australian Government developed the ‘Quit for You, Quit for Two’ campaign targeting pregnant women, those planning to have children, and their partners, and highlighted the importance of quitting to give their children a healthy start in life. The campaign provided information about the health harms associated with smoking during pregnancy, and the support available to women on their journey to quit smoking.

Culturally and linguistically diverse audiences

Advertisements were developed for culturally and linguistically diverse audiences to ensure messaging is tailored for specific communities. Translated versions of the ‘Health Benefits’ warnings were developed for Arabic; Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese); Korean; and Vietnamese audiences, focusing on smokers aged 18 to 40 years.

The ‘More Targeted Approach’ ran in conjunction with other anti-smoking campaigns targeted at Australian daily smokers and recent quitters aged 18 to 50 years, including:

  • ‘Cough’ – conveys the consequences of smoking;
  • ‘Health Benefits’ – promotes the message that every cigarette you do not smoke is doing you good;
  • ‘Stop before the suffering starts’ – included two television concepts – ‘Symptoms’ and ‘Breathless’.

People with mental illness

The Department of Health, in partnership with SANE Australia, developed a number of resources to provide advice and assistance for people with mental illness to quit smoking. Three brochures were developed:

  • “Supporting someone with a mental illness to quit smoking”;
  • “As a family or a friend how to provide support to someone with mental illness to quit”; and
  • “For health practitioners to help someone with mental illness to quit smoking”.

All brochures are free and available from the QuitNow website.

Prisoners and recently released prisoners

Prisoners have one the highest smoking rates, with around 74% of prison entrants reporting to be current smokers. However, correctional facilities are smoke-free in Australia. Resources were specifically developed for this audience by Quit Victoria – the Quitting on the Inside DVD and Quitters are Winners resource kit. In 2012, the department licenced these resources and adapted them for national release. Over the past several years state and territory prisons and correctional facilities are now smoke-free.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people/s

The Australian Government developed the first national anti-smoking campaign directly targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers. The campaign ‘Break the Chain’, shows an Indigenous woman describing how some of her close family members have died, and others are suffering, from diseases as a result of tobacco smoking and how by quitting it shows the younger generations that they don’t need cigarettes and they are breaking the chain of smoking and related diseases.

In January 2012, the next phase of the ‘More Targeted Approach’ campaign recommenced and included new translated advertisements developed for six primary cultural groups: Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Pacific Islander, Spanish and Vietnamese.

In November 2012, the ‘Quit for You, Quit for Two’ campaign was first released and in 2013 a new mobile app was developed to further support pregnant women. The app includes fun exercises and games; distractions to keep hands busy; practical quit tips and advice; facts about the baby's development; and ideas for what can be purchased with money saved from quitting smoking. In May 2013, the second phase of the ‘Quit for You, Quit for Two’ campaign commenced and incorporated the new app as a call-to-action for the campaign.

From April to June 2014, a three month burst of the ‘More Targeted Approach’ was released, using existing campaign materials. The campaigns included – ‘Break the Chain’ (Indigenous audiences); ‘Health Benefits’ (socially disadvantaged and CALD audiences); and ‘Quit for You, Quit for Two’ (pregnant women and their partners).

2015 onwards

In 2015, a new anti-smoking campaign focussing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was developed and launched. The ‘Don’t Make Smokes Your Story’ campaign features new advertising materials that focus on the values within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, such as the health and wellbeing of their families.

The ‘Don’t Make Smokes Your Story’ features an Aboriginal man (Ted) reflecting on his experiences of smoking and the benefits of quitting; with a particular focus on spending time with his family and the impact his quitting is having on him and his family and community.

The campaign commenced nationally on 1 May 2016 and continued through to 30 June 2016. The campaign ran alongside the existing successful campaigns, ‘Break the Chain’ and ‘Quit for You, Quit for Two’ as part of an integrated strategy utilising mainstream mass media, local and targeted channels, digital and social media activities.

The latest phase of the campaign ran from January to June 2017 using the campaigns ‘Don’t Make Smokes Your Story’ and ‘Quit for You, Quit for Two’.

Each phase of the Campaign incorporates a variety of media formats including television, radio, online, print and outdoor advertising, and includes public relations strategies and more recently social media formats, such as twitter and Facebook to promote the quit smoking message across the national population.

The Campaign is one component of the Australian Government’s sustained and multi-faceted approach to reducing smoking rates in the Australian population.

Related links

1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2011. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 3. BOD4. Canberra: AIHW. Available at:
2 Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs (IGCD) 2012. National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018. Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing: Canberra. Available at:
3 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 2003, updated reprint 2004, 2005. Geneva, Switzerland. Available at:,
4Australia’s National Tobacco Campaign, Evaluation Report Volume One, Two, and Three. Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, Canberra. Archived available at: