Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust – QUIT NOW

The Smoking Gun: Tobacco use in Oklahoma is a deadly and acute problem. It kills more Oklahomans each year than alcohol, illegal drugs, car accidents, suicide, homicide and AIDS combined. The state’s residents are markedly more inclined toward tobacco use than the national average. At the beginning of 2007, 25.8 percent of the state’s adult population used tobacco. The national average was less than 20 percent.

Fighting for a Change: In 2007, we partnered with the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) to battle rampant tobacco addiction in our state. Together, we launched the “Tobacco Stops With Me” social marketing campaign. Our initial goals were simple. We wanted to create a strong anti-tobacco sentiment throughout the state. And we wanted to achieve 60 percent awareness of our marketing campaign. By transforming the emotional tenor of the debate and creating awareness on an unprecedented level, we believed we could make a difference.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Ire: We wanted to inspire a contained outrage, a simmering resentment at the dangers of irresponsible tobacco use. So we focused our mass-media campaign on an unlikely subject – human relationships. Initial spots depicted tobacco’s destructive effects on families throughout the state. Husbands and wives. Parents and children. They put a face on the victims of tobacco use.

We followed that initial push with a secondhand smoke awareness campaign produced by VI. Again, the focus was on relationships and raw emotion. We showed innocent employees trapped in smoked-filled bars. We told of high school students suffering health effects from their parents’ addictions. The message was clear. Tobacco doesn’t simply harm smokers. It kills husbands, wives, children, grandparents, even pets.

Snuffing Out Bad Habits: An initial, baseline survey was conducted before the campaign launched. After one year, the survey went into the field again to gauge the level of campaign awareness. We were pleased to learn that 69 percent of the state’s population was aware of the campaign and could clearly articulate its messages. That exceeded the goal of 60 percent awareness we identified at the outset of the campaign. Respondents understood that tobacco smoke makes nonsmokers ill and that smoking around children is never acceptable. Smokers said they were more likely to quit. And nonsmokers said the campaign strengthened their resolve never to start smoking.

One Shining Data Point: Of all the polling data, one statistic stood out from the rest. In just one year, the prevalence of tobacco use in Oklahoma dropped four percent from the previous year. And for the very first time, smoking prevalence dropped below 25 percent.

We believe our work for TSET is a model for private-public partnerships, and we continue the smoke-free fight with them today. With a sense of solemn responsibility, we maximized the public’s investment in the health and safety of its citizens. Helping people overcome addiction fills us with a sense of pride and accomplishment. And protecting innocent nonsmokers feels pretty good too. It’s the kind of project that makes our jobs worth doing. We look forward to promoting public health and safety in the years and decades to come.