Key campaign strategies

  • Identify a campaign leader

The campaign leader should be someone who can spearhead and coordinate the push for increased/ dedicated taxes. Ideally the leader will be someone who is very knowledgeable about health matters and is well respected in the community, particularly by politicians. Preferably the leader will be without specific political affiliations, an articulate speaker and a good media performer. They should have extensive community networks and be able to work as part of a team as well as build a wide coalition of supporters. Such individuals may come from a range of settings including health departments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and hospitals.

  • Organize a coalition of supporters

The coalition will collectively and actively participate in the campaign to increase and/or dedicate taxes. Those involved will be able to access further help from their own networks. It is important that the members of the coalition, or their organizations, be assigned roles which use their expertise and skills so that they take ownership of the campaign.

The coalition will generally be spearheaded by representatives from public health, including professional associations, academics, and NGOs. Switzerland has recently been advocating for tobacco tax to be dedicated for health promotion. Their coalition includes the Tobacco Prevention Association, the Swiss Institute for Prevention of Alcohol and Drugs Problems, the Swiss Lung Association, the Swiss Cancer Association, Health Promotion Switzerland, the Swiss Society for Public Health, the Technical Agency for Health Policy, and the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health.

Other areas that may be represented include:

  1. the community;
  2. medicine;
  3. the arts;
  4. education;
  5. relevant government departments;
  6. ministerial staff;
  7. the media;
  8. sports; or
  9. religious entities.
  • Establish an evidence base

It is vital to undertake research in order to convince decision-makers that raising taxes will be cost-effective as well as having positive health benefits. The evidence may cover such areas as numbers of smokers and the potential impact of the tax on consumption, particularly in relation to children. As has already been stated, research carried out in Thailand prior to taxes being raised there estimated that a tobacco tax increase of 6% would prevent some 200 000 young people from starting to smoke. This sent a very powerful message to Thai decision-makers.

  • Assess public opinion

Surveys will determine the level of community support for the dedicated tax. Politicians are more likely to take actions that are popular with their constituents. Market research will also provide data with which to counter the tobacco industry if scare tactics are introduced, such as false claims about the community opposing tobacco tax increases.

  • Plan an extensive public awareness campaign

Placing the subject on the community agenda and educating people about the issues are important steps. It is important to concentrate on the health benefits of the proposed changes and the health of the community, particularly that of children.

A public awareness campaign does not have to be costly to succeed. One of the morning papers in Victoria, The Age, was enlisted as a strong supporter of the campaign to increase taxes; the paper published regular articles, editorials, and letters. Press and radio interviews, radio talk shows, and letters to the editor are all low-cost ways of getting the message across during the campaign period.

In Australia, where the banning of tobacco advertising and sponsorship was linked to the proposed tax increases, press advertising was used in a limited way to alert the public to the issues. For example, in Western Australia, a press advertisement featured around 30 high profile people representing different sports, acknowledging that the sporting arena would be much better off without tobacco sponsorship. There were also a number of staged publicity events. In Victoria, for example, several prominent sporting identities signed a petition in the city square in support of the legislation. The event attracted many onlookers and obtained wide media coverage.

  • Prepare draft legislation

While the government of the day will draft the final legislation, it will be useful to have a clear concept towards which to work. Such draft legislation is a useful tool for lobbying and it will help to clarify what is being proposed. The legislation will ideally link the dedicated tax to a percentage of tobacco taxation. The exact mechanism for collecting the levy might take the form of an excise duty, a tobacco franchise fee, or other mechanism, and will depend upon the administrative and legislative structures in place for collecting tobacco tax.

Appendix A includes a list of some relevant legislation which may be used as examples, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has recently produced a useful document, with templates for tobacco control legislation, that includes a section on advertising and promotion.


World Health Organization. (2004). The establishment and use of dedicated taxes for health. World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific.

World Health Organization. (2016). Earmarked Tobacco Taxes: Lessons Learnt from Nine Countries. World Health Organization. Geneva.

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