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June 26th, 2012:

The best anti-smoking ad you’ll ever see – Hong Kong (and the world) should copy the idea using local child actors

As a rule, smokers don’t like to be lectured. So how do you create yet one more anti-smoking campaign that might actually make smokers think?

Use that perfect tool of manipulation: children. A fascinating ad from Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok failed to grab a prize at the Cannes advertising festival last week, though it did end up on the shortlist for the Promo & Activation category, and has caught some viral attention online.  Sadly the Thai Health Promotion Foundation chose an advertising agency that has and continues to earn money from Big Tobacco and the YouTube video was pulled after a brief appearance – but Clear the Air has it on our website. (you will need Real player to view the video]

In the video, cherub-faced kids walk up to smokers on the streets of Thailand holding cigarettes in their tiny fingers and asking for a light. The smokers refuse, explaining to the kids why smoking is bad for them. After listening patiently to each lecture, the child would hand the smoker a folded-up note and walk away.

“You worry about me. But why not about yourself?” the note read. It then gave the number of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation’s hotline to help smokers quit.

An extreme rarity for such street campaigns, most of the adults did not throw away the brochures they were handed.

According to the agency, phone calls from smokers went up 40 per cent in the wake of the campaign.

The vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group, Rory Sutherland, spoke publicly about the way consumers’ brains make decisions. One of the points he likes to make is that a message has a much higher chance of getting through if delivered in the proper context. In an interview last month, he described one of his favourite campaigns from the global network in the past year – and it demonstrated a similar contextual intervention that the Thai anti-smoking campaign does.

“One of the first rules that you learn from brain science is that we make decisions contextually,” Mr. Sutherland said.

Op-Ed The best anti-smoking ad you’ll ever see

A jab to quit smoking: ‘DNA vaccine’ will halt nicotine cravings and could even be used to stop children starting the habit

An injection of genes that make antibodies against nicotine could help millions of smokers kick the habit, scientists believe.

Just one jab could provide life-long protection against nicotine cravings and it could eventually be used to vaccinate children to stop them ever getting hooked.

The ‘genetic vaccine’ has so far been tested only on mice, but research involving people could begin in as little as two years.

The jab contains genes ‘programmed’ to make antibodies that neutralise nicotine before it reaches the brain, where it would normally trigger the pleasurable feelings that underlie addiction.

The theory is that if smokers no longer get such gratification from cigarettes, they will find it easier to quit.

The jab being developed at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York tricks the liver into continuously making antibodies, ensuring there are always some in the blood to fight nicotine.

When vaccinated mice were given nicotine, the antibodies cut the amount that made its way to the brain by 85 per cent, with no effect on their behaviour, blood pressure or heart rate, reports the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Most smokers who try to quit light up again within six months, but lead researcher Dr Ronald Crystal said: ‘This novel vaccine may offer a much-needed solution.’

The research is still at an early stage and the need for large-scale studies means the jab is at least five years from the market.

If it proved to be safe and effective, it could eventually be included in school vaccination programmes to stop youngsters from ever starting to smoke, said Dr Crystal.

Quitting while you're ahead: Just a single jab could remove all cravings, although the treatment is controversialQuitting while you’re ahead: Just a single jab could remove all cravings, although the treatment is controversial

Darren Griffin, professor of genetics at Kent University, said the study had ‘great potential’, but warned that what worked in mice did not always work in man.

Prof Anthony Dayan, a retired toxicologist, said: ‘Nicotine addiction via smoking is harmful, but is it ethical to produce a major and enduring change in someone’s body to prevent it when other, less major, types of treatment are feasible?’

Around a fifth of Britons smoke, with most starting while still in their teens. Previous studies have shown that existing treatments, from counselling to pills, are of little benefit, with up to 80 per cent smoking again within six months.

Read more:

‘Smoking vaccine’ blocks nicotine in mice brains

Smokers could one day be immunised against nicotine so they gain no pleasure from the habit, according to researchers in the US.

They have devised a vaccine that floods the body with an antibody to assault nicotine entering the body.

A study in mice, published in Science Translational Medicine, showed levels of the chemical in the brain were reduced by 85% after vaccination.

Years of research are still needed before it could be tested on people.

However, lead researcher Prof Ronald Crystal is convinced there will be benefits.

“As far as we can see, the best way to treat chronic nicotine addiction from smoking is to have these Pacman-like antibodies on patrol, clearing the blood as needed before nicotine can have any biological effect.”

New approachOther “smoking vaccines” have been developed that train the immune system to produce antibodies that bind to nicotine – it is the same method used to vaccinate against diseases. The challenge has been to produce enough antibodies to stop the drug entering the brain and delivering its pleasurable hit.

Scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College have used a completely different approach, a gene-therapy vaccine, which they say is more promising.

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If they start smoking again, they will receive no pleasure from it due to the nicotine vaccine, and that can help them kick the habit”

Prof Ronald CrystalWeill Cornell Medical College

A genetically modified virus containing the instructions for making nicotine antibodies is used to infect the liver. This turns the organ into a factory producing the antibodies.

The research team compared the amount of nicotine in the brains of normal mice with those that had been immunised. After being injected with nicotine, the vaccinated mice had nicotine levels 85% lower.

It is not known if this could be repeated in humans or if this level of reduction would be enough to help people quit.

Prof Crystal said that if such a vaccine could be developed then people “will know if they start smoking again, they will receive no pleasure from it due to the nicotine vaccine, and that can help them kick the habit”.

He added: “We are very hopeful that this kind of vaccine strategy can finally help the millions of smokers who have tried to stop, exhausting all the methods on the market today, but find their nicotine addiction to be strong enough to overcome these current approaches.”

‘Impressive and intriguing’There are also issues around the safety of gene therapy in humans that will need to be answered.

Professor of genetics at the University of Kent, Darren Griffin, said the findings were “impressive and intriguing with great potential” but cautioned there were still many issues which needed addressing.

He said the main issue “is whether the observed biochemical effects in lab mice genuinely translate to a reduced addiction in humans given that such addictions can be both physical and psychological”.

Dr Simon Waddington, from University College London, said: “The technology underpinning gene therapy is improving all the time and it is encouraging to see these preliminary results that indicate it could be used to address nicotine addiction, which is damaging to the nation’s health and a drain on the health service economy.”

If such a vaccine was developed it could also raise ethical questions about vaccinating people, possibly in childhood, before they even started smoking.

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UK Health: Drop in smoking would save £27 million

Reducing smoking levels by just one per cent would save the NHS almost 27 million pounds, figures out today have shown.

There would also be 539 fewer deaths and 2,320 fewer hospital admissions, according to new figures on the Scottish Public Health Observatory website today.

Recent figures also show that there was a 29 per cent increase in 2011 in the number of people trying to stop smoking with the help of NHS smoking cessation services.

Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson said: “Giving up smoking is the single biggest thing anyone can do to improve their health, and these figures show just how big an impact on lives, hospital admissions and the cost to the NHS even a small decrease in the numbers of smokers in Scotland would have.

“It shows we are absolutely right to focus on smoking cessation, spending 14 million pounds a year on supporting people to kick the habit. All NHS boards are currently working to deliver a smoking cessation target which has a focus on achieving quits with their most deprived communities.

“These figures help to identify the wider benefit to Scotland’s health by reducing the number of people smoking. Not only do people lead longer and healthier lives, but the NHS saves money by not having to treat so many smoking-related illnesses.”