EC launches second phase of “HELP for a life without tobacco” campaign

On May 31st, to mark the World No Tobacco Day, Commission will launch the second phase of its ‘HELP for a life without tobacco’ campaign. Three new TV spots will be shown on over 100 TV channels across Europe for one month and repeated during the month of September. These TV spots, developed with young people, use humour to deliver three serious messages: don’t start smoking, how to quit smoking and dangers of second hand smoke.

Tobacco remains the largest single cause of premature death and disease in the European Union. It causes more than 650,000 premature deaths in the EU each year – which corresponds to about 1,800 deaths a day. These deaths could be avoided.

The Commission supports the view that pictures speak louder than words, especially in tobacco control. As a result, in 2005, the Commission created a picture library of 42 graphic images to accompany the mandatory health warnings on tobacco packs. The Commission plans to renew the current health warnings in 2010.

Commission’s HELP 2.0 Campaign

The new HELP 2.0 campaign builds on lessons learned from the first HELP campaign (2005-2008) and features a brand new website and 3 new TV spots.

Young people are not only the target but also participate in the strategy and development of the campaign. The three TV spots show an original approach to this issue: some fairly absurd and humorous tips draw the attention of the public in order to lead them to the serious message: real help and advice can be found on the HELP website. Young people are invited to contribute their own anti-smoking tips on the campaign’s website and even record their own ‘anti-smoking tips’ at local awareness raising HELP events. The Internet – the main communication tool of young people - is the nucleus of the HELP 2.0 campaign. All campaign actions - the TV spots, the Internet banner campaign, and the local HELP events – lead to the new HELP campaign website. By posting your mobile phone number on the website, you receive a link to the special version for mobile phones: ‘Help in my pocket’.

World No Tobacco Day 2009

Health warnings on tobacco packs are an excellent tool to communicate the health risks of tobacco and "de-glamorise" its use in society. Someone who smokes one pack of cigarettes per day is confronted with these warnings over 7000 times a year. The EU has been one of the pioneers in introducing large health warnings on all tobacco products.

A third of EU citizens claim that the warnings are effective in informing them about the health risks of tobacco, according to the results of latest Eurobarometer on tobacco. One fifth of smokers say the warnings encourage them to smoke less or to quit.

To reinforce the impact of textual warnings, the Commission adopted a library of 42 colour pictures in May 2005. Member States are encouraged to use the pictures in combination with textual warnings. Such picture warnings are much more powerful than pure text in educating the public about the health risks of tobacco, preventing uptake and encouraging cessation. They speak to everyone, including children and young people. More than half (55%) of EU citizens believe that adding a colour picture to a text-only health warning strengthens the effectiveness of the message.

So far, picture warnings have been introduced in Belgium, Romania and the UK. Latvia is due to follow suit in March 2010 while France, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, Poland and Spain plan to introduce pictorials in the near future. The Commission has also given the right to use EU images to several countries outside the European Union. The Commission urges all the Member States to make use of pictorial warnings.

Over the last 20 years, The Commission has pursued a comprehensive tobacco control policy aimed at reducing tobacco consumption. The objective is to maintain and strengthen tobacco control policy efforts through a range of mechanisms, activities and initiatives including tobacco control legislation and prevention and cessation activities.

The EU is also bringing experience and expertise to the global arena. For example, the EU Tobacco Advertising Directive, whose results were put forward by a Commission report on 2008 world no tobacco day, came into effect in July 2005. It banned cross-border tobacco advertising and tobacco sponsorship of events such as Formula One. After the European Union had completely banned tobacco sponsorship in Formula One, the rest of the world followed suit. In 2008, television viewers witnessed the first tobacco free Formula One season.