Tobacco Messaging

 

Despite decades of education, smoking continues to be the number one public health problem in the United States.

Don’t say . . .

Say . . .

Smokers’ freedom or rights

 

Smoke-free, secondhand smoke

Health, disease, cancer, clean air

Protect children, protect nonsmokers

Why . . .

People don’t have the freedom or right to hurt others. There are a number of phrases that work for tobacco control, listed above. On the state and local levels, most of the debate revolves around two health policies. First, smoke-free workplaces:

Say . . .

We have a responsibility, whenever it’s practical, to protect people from harm, especially children. It is clear that secondhand smoke is dangerous and cancerous. Doctors and scientists have concluded that the only way to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is to require smoke-free workplaces. That’s what we should do to defend everyone’s right to breathe clean air.

Why . . .

Americans overwhelmingly believe that secondhand smoke is dangerous. They are concerned about their own health and it is persuasive to talk about children’s health. Less than 20 percent of voters are smokers and even a good percentage of them support smoke-free laws.

The other common tobacco-related political debate is about raising the tobacco tax.

Say . . .

As adults, we have a responsibility to protect children from harm. Sadly, one-third of kids who smoke cigarettes will die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses. The most proven, effective way to protect those children is to raise the cigarette tax. Studies show that when the tax goes up, teen smoking goes down. It’s a small price to pay to protect the health of our children. 

Why . . .

For voters, deemphasize tax revenues and focus on health benefits. Legislators are interested in what they can do with the tax dollars but that’s not a strong argument to persuadable voters. 

Right wing argument: Secondhand smoke is not a health hazard.

Say . . .

The Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Surgeon General, and all the other important health organization unanimously agree that smoke is just as dangerous to another person exposed as it is to the smoker. Children are the ones most often affected. The American Lung Association estimates that, in the U.S., secondhand smoke causes about 50,000 deaths per year. 

Right wing argument: Anti-tobacco laws infringe on a person’s right to smoke. 

Say . . .

I feel for smokers—tobacco is extremely addictive. I would certainly support programs to help them. But everyone has the right to breathe clean air and to avoid damaging their own health. These laws do not stop anyone from smoking—they stop some of the harms that smoking inflicts on others.


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