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50 years of anti-tobacco advertising exhibit launches at ACMI

Tuesday 4 April, 2023

A collaboration between Cancer Council Victoria, Quit and Swinburne University of Technology has launched this week as part of ACMI’s free centrepiece exhibition The Story of the Moving Image, located in Fed Square, Melbourne. The exhibit, displayed in the Moving Minds section of the exhibition, showcases the creative and educative ways Cancer Council Victoria and Quit have tackled anti-tobacco advertising over five decades.

“Some of the early works are satirical, and quite humorous,” says Dr Thomas Kehoe, Cancer Council Victoria’s Historian. “It’s fascinating to see how campaigns in subsequent years have shifted their approach to quitting smoking. I’m certain we’ll continue to see innovative ways to help encourage people to quit.”

There have been enormous developments in our understanding of human behaviour and motivation to change health-risking habits. When Cancer Council’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer (CBRC) was established in 1987 it employed research fellows with specific expertise in psychology and behavioural change. Insights from CBRC have informed anti-tobacco campaigns ever since.

As ACMI’s Major Academic Partner, Swinburne played a critical role in helping to bring the exhibition to life, providing access to technology infrastructure, film production expertise and creative practice expertise. As a leading institution in the screen, film and TV space, Swinburne’s research capabilities have helped ensure an authentic recreation of this phenomenal behaviour change journey, whilst also offering a unique opportunity for its students.

“Working with Cancer Council Victoria, Quit and ACMI as one of our major external partners on this project has opened our eyes to the importance of health promotion campaigns and showcased the evolution of messaging, alongside the opportunity to contribute to making these heritage media assets more accessible. Projects like this deliver extraordinary value to our students and researchers and, in turn, contribute valuably to wider public education.” said Professor James Verdon, Dean of the School of Social, Sciences, Media, Film and Education.

“ACMI’s The Story of the Moving Image is an exhibition tracing the evolution of our screen culture. This collaboration with Cancer Council Victoria will resonate strongly with the many generations of Australians that have grown up with anti-tobacco advertisements. Both influential and memorable, their contribution to the dramatic reduction in tobacco consumption is testament to the quality of these advertisements and the power of the moving image”, said ACMI Director & CEO Seb Chan.

Todd Harper AM, CEO of Cancer Council Victoria and former Quit Director, said the organisation was immensely proud of the role its campaigns have played in driving down smoking rates in Australia.

“Australia is the envy of the world when it comes to tobacco control. Effective policy measures, coupled with attention grabbing campaigns such as the bubble wrap lung ad have stayed in the minds of many who watched them.”

Australia’s current smoking prevalence sits just above 10 per cent whereas in the 1970s, 45 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women smoked.

“We hope to continue to see the smoking prevalence drop, especially amongst young people who have grown up knowing the significant harms of smoking. However, we know vaping is a gateway to smoking. With the rapid rise in e-cigarette use and aggressive marketing tactics by unscrupulous vaping companies, we risk undoing decades of anti-tobacco success,” Harper cautioned.

Dr Kehoe said he hopes the exhibit will highlight the health risks of smoking whilst also showing the power of advocacy and film to change health behaviours.

“This project has been a labour of love and a close collaboration between creative partners. I expect we’ll look back on this time as pivotal to pushing for tougher restrictions on access to vaping products in Australia,” Dr Kehoe concluded.

Discover the exhibition

Anti-tobacco advertising exhibit displayed in the Moving Minds section of ACMI will be on display until 13 February 2025.

Find out more

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