Garrett’s Propaganda Analysis

Ideology and Purpose:

The ideology behind the anti-smoking campaign is that people should not smoke cigarettes. There are several premises that lead up to this ideology. The first premise would be that smoking detrimental to the health of the smoker. This premise assumes that people should not do things that are detrimental to their health, or at the very least, they should be aware of the adverse effects. This raises a question about the propaganda. Is the goal of the propaganda to simply make people aware of harmful effects? Or are they aiming to actually get them to quit? (Or not even start in the first place?)

Before determining their purpose, we should take into consideration the second premise. That is, smoking harms the health of those around the smoke even if they themselves are not smoking. Here is where we get the idea of “second hand smoke.” The ideology of this premise is that second hand smoke is harmful to those around us, including children and pets. It is assumed that we should not do things that harm those around us. When taking this premise into consideration, it seems that the purpose of the campaign is to actually prevent smoking altogether, and not just educate people on the harmful effects of smoking.

A subsection of the campaign is built on the notion that “big tobacco” is profiting from smokers, while the smokers suffer the health concerns that come with tobacco use. The ideology behind this is that people should not allow tobacco companies to “use people”  in a way that profits the companies but hurts the tobacco user.

Overall, I believe the purpose of the campaign is to eliminate (or at least reduce) the use of tobacco–especially cigarettes. We can’t be sure of the underlying reasons for the campaign, but we can be sure of the ideology and general purpose which can be summarized in the following statement: Smoking is bad for smokers and for those around them; Therefore you should not smoke.



In 1998 there was a settlement between Forty-six states (plus five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia) and the five largest tobacco companies in America. This Master Settlement Agreement was concerning the marketing, promotion and advertising of tobacco products. (Public Health Law Center) This settlement required the tobacco industry to pay the states $10 billion every year, indefinitely. (Public Health Law Center) Not only did the settlement impose strict policies on the advertising of tobacco, but some of the settlement money has even been used to create anti-smoking ads.

The other four states settled separately with tobacco companies. (National Association of Attorneys General) One major objective of the Master Settlement Agreement was to reduce cigarette smoking in the United States.

Anti-smoking propaganda was not nearly as popular before 1998. With the settlement came a huge increase in participation for the anti-smoking campaign. Anti-smoking propaganda mostly aims to educate people about the dangers of tobacco. The reason there has been such a push to educate people is because in the past people have been uneducated and misinformed about the realities of tobacco use. In the 1940s there were Camel Cigarettes ads that stated, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” More doctors smoke Camels? Then certainly they must be good for your health! Viceroys even had an ad that pictured a dentist with the words, “As your dentist, I would recommend Viceroys.”

This was the misinformation that people were led to believe. As a result, millions of deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to smoking. (“Mortality Trends…”) The sad fact is that smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the U.S. (“Mortality Trends…”) These are some of the reasons that contributed to the need for a anti-smoking campaign.


The Propagandist: 

There are many organizations that are propagandists in this campaign. Some of the major propagandists would be the U.S. Department of Public Health, the “Truth” campaign which is sponsored by the American Legacy Foundation, Action on Smoking & Health (ASH), and the American Cancer Society.

Other propagandists would include the American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and the California Department of Public Health to name a few. (“Anti Smoking Groups”)

Some of these propagandists are known for their heavily pushed, main stream anti-smoking commercials, while others have lesser known propaganda. Regardless, together they make up a large collection of anti-smoking propaganda.


Structure of the Propaganda Organization:

There are many organizations that are creating and contributing to anti-smoking propaganda. With such a wide variety of propagandists, it is difficult to identify a common structure between them. The one thing that could be considered the base for all these organizations is Master Settlement Agreement in 1998. Whether directly or indirectly, this settlement is the reason why these organizations exist. For some organizations, the Master Settlement Agreement directly funds their campaign. For others, the funds and awareness trickles down in some way. For example, the Truth campaign is funded by the American Legacy Foundation. The American Legacy Foundation was established and sustained under the Master Settlement Agreement.

One of the most popular anti-smoking propagandist is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services. The Department of Health and Human Services is lead by the Secretary of Health and Human Services who is nominated by the President of the United States, and approved by the Senate. The current Secretary of Health and Human Services is Sylvia Burwell; she began her role in 2014. Within this department is the CDC. The director of the CDC is Tom Frieden. (CDC Organizational Chart) “Dr. Frieden launched the first-ever national paid anti-tobacco media campaign, CDC’s Tips from Former Smokers, projected to help more than 100,000 smokers quit, saving money and preventing tens of thousands of deaths” (The CDC Director).

The structure of the propagandist organizations is somewhat complex. But it can be simplified once we understand that the settlement that happened in 1998 was so monumental that it is propelling propaganda, through the branches of various organizations, still to this day.


Target Audience:

There are several target audiences that the propagandists aim for. The audience can be broken  into two main categories–smokers, and non-smokers. It is obvious to see that smokers are the target audience of campaigns that use words like “Quit” or phrases such as “Time to quit.”

Teenagers as a whole a target audience as well. Whether smoking or non-smoking teenagers, the anti-smoking campaigns target them all. The reasoning behind targeting teenagers is that smoking can be highly addictive, and the longer that one smokes the harder it is to quit. So, the propagandists see that a great way to stop smoking is to prevent it before it even starts. Teenagers are targeted in TV commercials by the “Truth Campaign” as well as commercials by the CDC.


Media Utilization Techniques:

Campaigns against smoking have been pumped out for almost two decades. This shows the method of exposure learning. Exposure learning is a theory that says, the more people are exposed to an idea, the more likely they are to accept the idea. (Jowett, O’Donnell) Anti-smoking propaganda has been persistent over the years. Over and over again, teenagers and other target audiences see commercials and ads exposing the dangers of smoking. Someone who doesn’t agree with this theory might say, “Well, haven’t they heard about the dangers of smoking by now?! If they’re ever going to quit, they would have by now already.” It is true that most of the target audiences have heard about the problems related to smoking, but that will not stop them from trying to leverage exposure learning to accomplish their goal.

These campaigns also fight to throw the viewer “off balance” in their mind. This is an application of the consistency theory. People want things to be constant–especially their thoughts and beliefs. When new information goes against what the person already believes, it leaves them with tension in their minds. (Jowett, O’Donnell) This tension can lead them to changing their behavior or beliefs. Anti-smoking propagandists have used this technique to disrupt the attitudes of teenagers–especially in how some of them view smoking as a “cool” thing to do. By depicting smoking to be an “un-cool” behavior, it creates tension in the mind of the viewer.

The consistency theory is also used when targeting the adult target audience. Many smokers, even though they have heard about health risks associated with smoking, have a belief that “it would never happen to me.” The goal of many CDC commercials is to show one specific smoker who has suffered from smoking. Statistics can be easily ignored, but focusing on just one person creates identification with the viewer because they themselves are just one person. Once this identification is established, they are in the right position to throw off the cognitive consistency of the viewer, and thus, they are one step closer to achieving their goal.


Special Techniques to Maximize Effect:

Early anti-smoking propaganda focused more on facts and figures. They tried to use numbers to convince people to not smoke. The technique being used here is logos. It is the appeal to reason that is used to persuade people. This technique often lacked the identification factor. Numbers are easy to look away from. Human beings, however, can be more difficult to ignore. That’s why more recent propaganda uses the pathos technique. Instead of showing statistics, they display very graphic and disturbing images that aim to get an emotional response. Commercials also show personal stories from people who have suffered from smoking. These are meant to tug on the heart of the viewers, and by appealing to their emotional side, they hope to convince them to not smoke.

The social judgment theory is a special technique that is used by propagandists. The aim behind this is to get people to agree with them on a smoking-related issue. By doing this, if they are able to tip the scale in the other direction, then they are more likely to get them to agree on the rest of the propagandists’ ideologies. For example, if you can open the door by getting everyone to agree that “smoking cigarettes is bad for your health,” you have a better chance at getting them to agree that “big tobacco companies are taking advantage of our youth.” Since their attitudes are tilted in the right direction, their compliance with the rest of the campaign can flow more easily.



I was surprised to see that there is counter propaganda that has arose against the anti-smoking campaign. This counter-propaganda aims to expose what they think are the reasons behind the anti-smoking campaign. They believe that the propagandists have been lying about the effects of tobacco. It is difficult to identify the source of a lot of this propaganda as it is often written, created and spread by people who want to remain anonymous. Online memes, articles and websites make up most of the counter-propaganda. Books such as “Smoke Screens: The Truth About Tobacco” by Richard White also contribute to this propaganda.
I do not want to write off the counter-propaganda too quickly, but it seems that a lot of it is based on far-fetched conspiracy theories.

Effects and Evaluation:

Statistics would show that the use of cigarettes has been declining. Teen smoking peaked in 1997 and has decreased significantly since then. (“Trends in Current…”) However, smoking does still remain as the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. The campaign  has been effective, but has not met its ultimate goal.

The Washington Post says that it only costs about $480 per smoker that is convinced and helped to quit. (“Government Anti-smoking…”) This looks to be a good investment especially when you consider the long term effects and costs associated with smoking. The campaign has also influenced public policy changes that no longer permit smoking on airplanes or in restaurants.

In addition to results of the Master Settlement Agreement, in 2009 Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The law required cigarette packs to display large warning labels with blunt warnings. (Noah, 2010)

Overall, anti-smoking propaganda has worked to some degree, but as with any government projects, there is going to be inefficiencies. Propagandists are still hopeful that their ideology will be continue to be accepted and will shape the behavior of Americans.




Works Cited:

Works Cited
“Anti Smoking Groups: The Full Guide – Quit Smoking Community.” Quit Smoking 
Community. 06 Sept. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
By Garth S. Jowett (Author),, and Victoria O’Donnell. “Propaganda & Persuasion 6th
Edition.” Propaganda & Persuasion. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
“The CDC Director.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, 17 May 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
“Government Anti-smoking Campaign Cost Just $480 per Quitter, Study Finds.”
Washington Post. The Washington Post, Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
“Master Settlement Agreement.” Public Health Law Center. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
“National Association of Attorneys General.” NAAG | The ABCs of the Tobacco Master
Settlement Agreement. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
Noah, Timothy. “Do-it-yourself Anti-smoking Propaganda.” Slate Magazine., 12 Nov.
2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
Secretary, HHS Office of the. “HHS Organizational Chart.”, 24 Oct. 2008. Web. 15
Nov. 2016.





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