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Counter-advertising takes many forms.

The BADvertising approach is unique in that it uses the actual ads and turns them around to convey the truth about tobacco use. It has had highly effective results.

Many clever ads and activities have spoofed the different brands, but they've changed the name slightly to protect themselves from lawsuits, i.e., Marlboro becomes Malboro, Barfboro, Marblro, etc.

Another form of counter-advertising involves spoofing the act of smoking itself, showing it for the ridiculous, filthy, and wasteful activity that it is. Many cartoons fall into this category.

Others focus on the disastrous physical consequences.

The first counter-ads came when we still had tobacco ads on TV. Powerful counter-ads were granted equal time as public service announcements and the results were disastrous for the tobacco companies. The tobacco companies withdrew their ads in order to get rid of the counter-ads.

Although the tobacco companies can no longer buy ad space on TV, they have made an end run around the laws and paid others to place or wear their brands and logos in the TV programs themselves, on billboards and clothing at sports events, on the news, etc. Now they're everywhere on our TV screens again.

Can we not call for equal time for these placements as well?

Since the mid-eighties, the BADvertising Institute has been encouraging the health educators, the tobacco control professionals and tobacco prevention activists to use graphic imagery to communicate their messages... using counter-advertising methods whenever possible.

By the mid-nineties nineties the idea had taken hold and in the late-nineties the CDC mandated the use of counter-advertising in tobacco prevention programs, stating that counter-advertising was one of the most effective ways of changing attitudes and behavior.

Typically, the states that have had the greatest impact on the smoking issues are the states that have adopted powerful counter-advertising methods.

Today, graphic warning labels using pictures of rotten teeth, diseased organs, bleeding brains, and dying smokers as warnings on cigarette packets have proven to have an impact on cutting smoking rates in countries that have introduced them, such as Canada and Singapore.

Attesting to the success of these graphic labels...the tobacco companies are vehemently opposed to the used of such graphic images on the warning labels.

Unfortunately, the powerful tobacco lobby has prevented their use in the US.

To see the Canadian Health Warnings click here.

To see the Australian Health Warnings click here.

Examples of other innovative counter-advertising

Lies about stunted penis

A Swedish organization covered Stockholm in posters claiming that smoking stunts penis growth and that cigarette filters are filled with mouse excrements, along with other lies aimed at getting kids to stop smoking.  

They wanted to raise awareness about how the tobacco industry always promotes its products -- through lies.


Virginia Slam!

Leslie Nuchow began Virginia SLAM! as a counter movement against the Virginia Slims record label, Woman Thing Music. Leslie refused a lucrative offer from the label after learning that in order to buy a Woman Thing Music CD, you were required to purchase two packs of Virginia Slims cigarettes.

It was clear that this was not a music project; it was a tobacco project to try to lure young people, especially young women, into smoking. Leslie decided to use the healing power of music to expose and SLAM! harmful industries and organizations

The Virginia SLAM! counter-concert was held to protest the use of music to market cigarettes and to heighten public awareness of the health risks of tobacco use among women.

Leslie also started SLAM!Records, a record label devoted to targeting industries or organizations which hurt humanity, and SLAM!ing them with the healing power of music.


Raising Awareness

Even displays, events, auctions, exhibitions, and fairs designed to raise awareness about the real effects of tobacco use can also be considered a form of Counter-advertising. Any truth about tobacco use will counter the tobacco industry message.

What works?

Kids want reality.

They don't want facts and numbers, or lame attempts at being funny or hip. They want the stories of real people. Numbers aren't as effective as someone smoking through their throat, for example.

They like the ads that criticize the tobacco industry.




They least like tobacco the giant's
anti-smoking campaigns that say that smoking is an adult thing to do and kids shouldn't do it.

Nobody likes being told
what they should or shouldn't do...

That makes them want to rebel.


Can you have an anti-smoking campaign and not vilify the tobacco industry?

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