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BYU professor creates Spanish anti-smoking ads for Utah Hispanics

Campaign boosts calls to Spanish quit smoking hotline

Many Utah Hispanics suffer from an addiction to cigarettes with little information and support about living smoke-free, but now a Brigham Young University professor’s advertising campaign is taking a real-life approach to illustrate the “Truth” before and after the habit is formed.

Chris Cutri, an assistant professor of communications, teamed with the Utah Department of Health, Love Communications and 50 Films to produce a campaign highlighting the problems associated with smoking, second-hand smoke and overcoming the addiction.

Cutri followed the daily lives of four Utah Hispanics struggling to fight smoking dependence. He sifted through ten hours of footage to edit and create 13 commercial-length ads highlighting their everyday routines as well as pivotal moments during their quest to quit. The ads aired shortly after filming began and continued throughout the process of making a documentary.

Click here to see four of the spots.

“I wanted to create awareness that not only is smoking an issue and a problem, but there is a place to receive help,” Cutri said.

For several years, attempts to target the Hispanic population have been made, but Cutri’s efforts have led to significant progress.

The ads and documentary began airing at the end of 2006 and will continue to be broadcast on five local Spanish and English television stations including Telemundo, Univision, Mundo, ABC4 and Fox13.

Lena Dibble, media coordinator for the tobacco prevention and control program at the Utah Department of Health, said the Hispanic adult smoking rate is slightly higher than that of the rest of the population.

“The tobacco industry specifically implements branding and advertising techniques aimed atHispanic consumers,” Dibble said. “This is especially distasteful, as these are often populations that are socially and economically disadvantaged and less able to afford the health and financial costs associated with smoking.”

In part to combat this influence, Cutri’s ads prompt viewers to call the Hispanic Quit Line to receive support and assistance in their efforts to stop smoking. Calls to the quit line have increased by up to six times, Dibble said.

“These are real people with real stories that others can relate to,” Cutri said. On more than one occasion Cutri and John Williams, a BYU student involved in the creation of the campaign, were filming in supermarkets and someone would come up and recognize the participants from the commercials.

“It is extremely rewarding to see the campaign is working,” said Williams, a senior in communications. “We have been able to share the truth with Utah—what people actually go through and how they can quit.”

Not all of the participants (identified in the campaign by only their first names) depicted were able to quit right away.

Carlos, who was quitting for his family, stopped little by little. Zulma smoked a cigarette after three weeks of quitting, but realized she didn’t like it anymore. Ed had tried to quit before, but realized this time, “without temptation, there was nothing to overcome.” Margarita, 20, was on her second round of quitting after recognizing the toll smoking had taken on her health.

None of the participants realized they were specific targets of the tobacco industry. However, Utah Hispanics have responded well to Cutri’s campaign.

“The Hispanic community is very tight-knit, and they have answered well to the ‘Truth’ documentary and ads,” said Christian Blanco of Love Communications, who served as the project’s creative director.

That impact is what makes this project stand out for Cutri.

“I have made many documentaries, but this experience has been particularly gratifying,” he said. “This project is resulting in social change and that is much better than any award.”

Writer: Shea Miller

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