California Tobacco Prevention Program

Staying a step ahead


Thanks to the incredible success of the country’s largest and most comprehensive anti-tobacco public health program, California now has the second-lowest smoking rate in the nation. But Big Tobacco has evolved new and dangerous strategies to hook the next generation, positioning itself as a protector of public health, churning out a dizzying array of new products that skirt around laws and exploit loopholes like synthetic nicotine and “smokefree” vapes, drops, and powders. To help tackle this new challenging era, the California Tobacco Control Program (CTPP) turned to RALLY to help lead communications efforts.


Public health campaigns often face two challenges—a lack of awareness and a lack of urgency. Thanks to California’s restrictions on smoking and Big Tobacco’s pivot to new products, tobacco is largely out of sight, out of mind for most Californians, putting both challenges into play for this project. To raise awareness and motivate the public, RALLY worked with CTPP to expand the message framework to go beyond the typical warnings about the harms of tobacco and paint the full picture of how the tobacco industry harms all Californians, whether they use tobacco products or not, including tobacco’s negative environmental impacts, its impact on youth mental health, and the industry’s targeting of Black and Latino populations. To socialize these messages, we engaged new spokespeople and influencers to widen the bench of who can tell the story of tobacco harm. We included young people who successfully quit, physicians and experts who provided validation and data, and unlikely allies from other issue spaces like water quality and the environment. This allowed us to take the audience on a narrative journey of tobacco harms that hit close to home for many different groups. This new approach changes both the perception of who is an anti-tobacco advocate and nurtures a deep understanding among Californians of why they must end the tobacco industry’s influence on their state.

RALLY is no stranger to the intersection of health and public policy. We partnered with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to help raise awareness of COVID vaccines and therapeutics at the height of the pandemic. We’ve also worked with the California Health Care Foundation, which engaged us to change the narrative around Black Californians’ healthcare experiences.