Tobacco foes poised for huge campaign

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Flush with a $250 million infusion of cash last week from cigarette marketers, the Tobacco Control Foundation is hoping to begin this fall what will be the biggest anti-smoking ad campaign in the nation's history. But it still hasn't selected an agency or a media buyer.

Washington State Attorney General Christine Gregoire, who heads the 11-member foundation board, said she hopes to begin looking at advertising issues at a meeting set for May 27.

"We want to start to begin some research into our message and target audience before we go out with an advertising campaign," said Ms. Gregoire.

The scenario for selecting an agency isn't known as yet.

NATIONAL OR LOCAL? Ms. Gregoire said the foundation--which will include two governors, two other state attorneys general, two state legislators and experts in various health fields--also needs to decide whether it will run a mostly national campaign; give grants to local governments for local campaigns aimed at the national target; or some combination of the two.

The foundation was formed as part of the deal that tobacco makers reached with state attorneys general in November. In the settlement, the industry agreed to provide $250 million for anti-tobacco programs this year and, starting next year, $300 million annually.

The deal specifies "a nationwide sustained advertising and education program to counter the use by youth of tobacco products [and to] educate consumers about the cause and prevention of diseases associated with the use of tobacco products."

It also provides funds to develop model advertising and education programs; commission studies; and track and monitor youth smoking.

Ms. Gregoire said that while research needs to be done to determine who to target first, a number of states have done similar research already, and so have the Centers for Disease Control and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.

She said the foundation's research would "fill in the gaps."

Copyright April 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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