The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Onderstaande column is geschreven door Lucy Popova op verzoek van het NET - Nationaal Expertisecentrum Tabaksontmoediging van het Trimbos-instituut. Deze is gepubliceerd in nummer 4 van de Nieuwsbrief Tabaksontmoediging, op 3 juni 2014.

My first trip to the Netherlands a few weeks ago was filled with surprises: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good: graskaas, free wi-fi on the trains, everyone can speak English. The bad: it rained the whole time. And the ugly: there was so much smoking! My family friends smoked inside the house. People of all socioeconomic backgrounds smoked on the streets. Someone even smoked in the bathroom on the train!

Coming from California, where the smoking rate is around 13%, this was particularly distressing. Yet meeting the activists and academics, like the members of the Alliantie Nederland Rookvrij!, Trimbos Institute, and other organizations gave me hope. I urge you to keep trying new things to bring down the smoking rates in the Netherlands. Strive to pass 100% smokefree laws – if there is a smoking room in an establishment, it’s not 100% smokefree. Implement other policies, restricting where and when smoking is allowed. And keep incorporating media campaigns in the anti-tobacco programs.

The California experience showed that media campaigns focused on denormalizing smoking are particularly effective. Some ads showed the dangers of secondhand smoking, mobilizing nonsmokers and raising smokers’ awareness about how they might be hurting their loved ones. Other ads revealed tobacco industry’s manipulative tactics, such as marketing to youth and denial of the addictive nature of its products.

These advertisements that unfavorably portrayed the tobacco industry were well received by the viewers. Other denormalization messages focus on the role of cigarette butts and the e-waste from electronic cigarettes in the environmental pollution. Combining more traditional messages (such as reminding smokers of the health consequences of smoking) with the denormalization messages might be what is needed in the Netherlands. So the next time I visit I would be pleasantly surprised by the changing social norms regarding smoking.

Lyudmila (Lucy) Popova, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education
University of California, San Francisco