Anti-tobacco advertising

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In 1968, a cigarette ad ran every 14 minutes on Australian TV. Science had established that smoking was harmful, but more than one third of people still lit up. Cancer Council Victoria director Nigel Gray responded to the flood of tobacco messaging by commissioning an educational film for school kids and began advocating to ban cigarette advertising. The result was a star-studded anti-tobacco campaign launched in 1971, which became the foundation for boundary-pushing anti-smoking filmmaking in Australia. These ads – digitally restored here – became part of our collective consciousness and their messages continue to inspire people to quit.

Since then, anti-tobacco advertising has become increasingly central to a larger health promotion strategy informed by behavioural science. Beyond the audience experience of the ads, science-guided advocacy and lobbying has worked to improve health outcomes through smoking regulations.

The first anti-tobacco TV campaign

In 1971, TV stations were reluctant and big tobacco objected. That’s why the anti-smoking campaign needed an undeniable voice on the airwaves in its first TV campaign: Australian of the Year and Nobel Prize-winner Frank MacFarlane Burnet.

Ads in the 1980s

Sponges, sports and shock value. Unforgettable campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s showed the harmful effects of tobacco in gruesome detail. Showcasing positive health benefits, an array of sporting heroes (and a very ‘80s jingle) told us “quitters are winners”.

Cancer Council Victoria Tobacco Plain Packaging Commercial via Cancer Council Victoria's YouTube channel

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13 February 2025

ACMI: Gallery 1

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The Story of the Moving Image → Moving Minds → MM-08. Anti-Tobacco Advertising


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