The EU has enlisted the help of celebrities from entertainment and sport in its initiative that seeks to educate young people on the dangers of smoking.
Young smokers are about to hear the 'anti' message from their heroes
The European Commission's "Feel Free to Say No" anti-smoking initiative received a boost this week when stars from music and sport joined the campaign in a bid to help young people resist the temptations and pressures surrounding the habit.
Television and cinema advertisements for the campaign featuring the EU Commissioner David Byrne with Lou Pearlman, the man behind the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync, together with Canadian band B4-4 started on November 10th. The ads will be seen on 30 national TV channels across the continent, on MTV Europe and in over 5000 cinemas. B4-4 has also released a new single under the title of the campaign.
Stars from music and soccer help spread the message
Moby just says 'no'.
The EU's message is simple. Young people across Europe should be persuaded not to smoke or should be supported in their efforts to stop. Pop stars such as the American techno icon Moby, boy band Natural and British singer Sophie Ellis Bextor have lent their support while a host of World Cup soccer stars, including Germany's Michael Ballack, Gerald Asamoah and French star Zinedine Zidane, have also signed up for the campaign.
Thorsten Muench, assistant to the EU Commissioner in Brussels, told DW-WORLD: "Young people look up to these people, as heroes in some cases. We think it is more appropriate if a pop star or sports personality tells them 'smoking is not good, don't be fooled, make your own decisons but make them based on facts.' "
Muench added that the pop star involvement would become more high-profile next year when a campaign bus, complete with stage, will tour the EU member states. Bands and artists associated with the initiative will perform while educational and promotional material will also be available.
The campaign officially kicked off on May 31st, International World No Tobacco Day and the opening game of the 2002 World Cup in Korean and Japan. Throughout the year, national opening events and press conferences have taken place simultaneously across a number of EU member states.
Campaign targets the age group most likely to smoke
The "Feel Free to Say No" initiative is mainly aimed at people between the ages of 12 and 18. This is the age group that produces 80 percent of all smokers who go on to be regular inhalers of the dangerous weed.
Health experts at the EU estimate that half of all smokers who started during this time will later fall victim to the long-term effects of the habit. The major health risks caused by smoking are well known and proven by medical evidence, so the dangers are clear.
But with this new initiative, the EU Commission plans to become actively involved in promoting the image of non-smoking as well as helping those who already smoke, to bring about a change in the social attitudes towards tobacco consumption that make hard decisions for young people even harder.
Combating the problems by changing attitudes
James Dean regularly said 'yes, please!'
Despite the widespread knowledge that smoking causes such fatal diseases as cancer and emphysema, the continued portrayal of smoking as a cool pastime and image enhancing accessory in popular culture still draws in numbers of impressionable people. The new EU campaign focuses on building the self-esteem and confidence of the would-be smoker by promoting free will not to smoke as an even cooler lifestyle choice.
Steering clear of the usual lecturing and patronizing, the "Feel Free to Say No" initiative is designed to appeal much more to the lifestyle and emotions of the young. By offering an escape from the pressures of smoking peers and the advertising campaigns of the tobacco companies, the initiative hopes to promote the non-smoker as a person who consciously ignores the pressures and ultimately lives free.
Education in health dangers and pitfalls of advertising
As well as aiming the slogans and events at the consumers of cigarettes, the EU has also targeted the producers. The campaign's communication division aims to expose what they see as the manipulative PR and advertising strategies of the tobacco industry while providing educational material on health issues and enormous addictive potential of the nicotine drug.
Telling smokers their habit kills is like preaching to the converted
As the EU continues to spread its anti-smoking message across the continent, the German government recently insisted that tobacco companies must no longer mislead smokers with claims that their products are 'light' or less dangerous for them.
New regulations will force the tobacco companies to update their health warnings by adding the gruesomely truthful, although ultimately futile, information that 'Smoking Kills' - a fact most smokers are fully aware of.