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Public communications

A man hands out leaflets to a small group of people on the street

Public Communications

GOAL: Public are sensitized about the harms of tobacco and about the tobacco control laws

Educating the public on the specifics of tobacco control legislation and how it will benefit them can build support for the law and facilitate smooth implementation.

It requires active, targeted communication on the legislation, implementation and enforcement activities and health benefits of the law.

Why Plan a Public Education and Communication Strategy?

Additionally, public support for a law can help counter industry interference and assist the law become self-enforcing as societal and behavioral norms shift. Building a communications strategy that will ensure appropriate and effective communication to the right stakeholders is essential.

Educating business requires clear, proactive communication of the law, their responsibilities under it and the penalties they face for not upholding it. Signposting to useful resources and explaining the rationale for the law are also important.

Case Study

Smoke-free enforcement in Turkey

The government of Turkey, supported by Vital Strategies, ran an enforcement-focused campaign.

The campaign increased numbers to their complaint line (for compliance) from 74,000 to 154,000 the year they did the campaign.

How to Implement a Public Education and Communication Strategy

Raise awareness and engage both citizens and the media in reporting breaches

  • Disseminate specifics of the law to build public support and correct misinformation
  • Build the expectation of positive outcomes and pave the way for smooth implementation

Create tailored materials for target audiences to improve compliance

  • Create effective materials that can be widely shared with the media, businesses, community allies and the public
  • Provide educational training, guidance documents and online resources to help those who must comply with the law such as businesses, workplaces, managers and civilians in public places.

Key elements to include in these educational and guidance documents are

  • Details of the law and key facts about it
  • How the law applies to the stakeholders’ setting
  • What their responsibilities are
  • Signage requirements and sample signs, where appropriate
  • Penalties and fine information
  • Health and other benefits of complying with the law
  • Requirements for training staff and sample training materials

Build a mass media campaign

Campaigns increase the effectiveness of tobacco control legislation by drawing attention to policy measures and healthy benefits of the legislation. 

  • Paid: refers to paying media outlets for coverage. Developing paid media strategies can be an effective initial step to publicize the legislation and lead to future earned media.
    • Strategies for paid media: advertisements, commercials, posters, billboards
  • Earned: refers to unpaid media coverage. Developing strategies for earned media is a cost-effective way to share information and build awareness
    • Strategies for earned media: public consultations, collaborations with community allies, countering industry opposition

Mobilize local media

Mobilizing the local media to publicize legislation and implementation activities can result in higher compliance rates by keeping the public informed. Facilitate media mobilization through communications strategies such as mass media campaigns and disseminating information on the law and enforcement activities.

  • Effective communications and education strategies will equip and encourage the media to: 
  • Report on compliance rates
  • Report on violations and enforcement actions
  • Demonstrate the law is working or not working
  • Hold government accountable for failed or ineffective implementation
  • Expose industry interference
  • Create transparency around the law and implementation mechanisms

Publicize Educational Materials

Publicizing educational materials that will be present in the community and at point-of-sale will inform the public of laws and regulations and are an important way to educate and encourage compliance. This can be done through the local media, community allies, and other civil society organizations. Examples of educational materials:

  • No smoking signage – no smoking signage is an important way to communicate and remind civilians of the smoke-free rules and regulations of their venue or setting and can impact social norms.
  • Sales boards – posters and flyers at point-of-sale often include health warnings and sales to minors displays and can discourage the purchase of tobacco products.
  • Health warnings on products – text and pictorial health warnings on tobacco products make tobacco products less appealing and discourage use by communicating the harms of tobacco.

Track and report impact of the campaigns

  • Tracking knowledge, social and behavioral impact of campaigns and enforcement activities to inform future communication strategies and legislative decisions.
  • Sharing results of enforcement activities builds the expectation that the legislation will be enforced and establishes a status quo that the public is following the law, boosting compliance.

Implementation Areas


Category: GIH Basic page

Issued by an executive authority or government regulatory agency, a regulation (or rule, order, ordinance or guideline) explains how to implement a specific law and its related penalties and sanctions. 


Category: GIH Basic page

Tobacco control law compliance increases the percentage of the population that is protected from tobacco harms.