Sharen Ross, Vice President, Marketing:
Think back to a time when you made a major life-changing decision. Perhaps you decided to go back to school to finish a degree. Maybe you decided to lose weight, start jogging, become a vegetarian or quit drinking. Now think about what led you to that decision. Was it the result of an ad campaign? Probably not. Most likely it was a personal decision based on personal reasons.
Quitting smoking is no different. Despite a deluge of graphic public awareness campaigns over the past 20 years showing everything from rotting teeth to blackened lungs, 1 in 5 Americans continue to smoke - well aware of the dangers to their health and the health of those around them. In Europe, nearly 40% are smokers, however according to data collected by the European Opinion Research Group, more than 22% of European smokers say that, despite reading the warning labels on their cigarette packs, they are not deterred from smoking. Even more say they know the warnings are there but choose to ignore them. A recent Health Canada report confirmed the findings in Europe, showing that 57% of smokers find the graphic images on their cigarette packs to be ineffective, an increase of 5 points over the past five years.
In Australia, TV audiences will be confronted with a new graphic anti-tobacco ad campaign during the Olympics broadcast to drive home the message that "everybody knows" but some still ignore.
The Assistant Health Minister puts the issue in perspective when she states, "This campaign will ask smokers directly why they still smoke despite everybody knowing tobacco causes cancer, stroke, heart disease and emphysema."
Free & Clear is a company that knows smokers. It has been helping them for over 20 years with their struggles to quit this powerful addiction. Over 500,000 smokers have reached out to us for help just in the past 4 years. Yet, how often do we hear a smoker say "I called today because I saw a picture of cancerous lung on TV", or "I read a warning label on my cigarette pack and decided to quit on the spot". Those campaigns certainly play an important role - you might say they have achieved exactly what they set out to do - raise public awareness about the dangers of smoking. No one can claim ignorance any more.
But what really drives a smoker to make the life-changing decision to quit? The reasons are always different and they’re always deeply personal. Here's a sampling of things we hear every day:
"What made me open my eyes and want to stop smoking was my health. I woke up one morning and could barely breathe."
"I grabbed a smoke, looked at my wife and saw her sadness at what I was doing. She's the reason I quit."
"When you actually see someone that you love get to the point where they are almost dead, you think to yourself and wonder whether it is worth it."
"What really changed my mind and made me see the reality of what I was doing was when my 4-year-old daughter looked up at me and said "Mommy, I don't want you to die. Please don't breathe more smoke."
"When my Doctor requested I quit smoking NOW or I'm going to end up on oxygen."
"My first grandchild was on the way and my son told me that I would not be able to hold the baby, drive in my car with the baby, or have the baby in my house if anything smelled of smoke."
What many non-smokers don't realize is how hard it is to quit smoking. 70% of smokers "want to quit" and most who reach out to us for help have already made several attempts in the past only to return to smoking again shortly thereafter. Not because they forgot why they needed to quit, they certainly don't need to be reminded with more graphic images and warning labels, but because overcoming an addiction that is both physical and psychological is incredibly hard.
Smokers know why they need to quit. They don't need more reminders. What they do need more of is help; close at hand and ready for them when they are finally ready to quit for themselves.