Forget the March Hare, here at the White Ribbon Association, March is all about getting rid of ‘Big Cig’.

Why ‘Big Cig’ you ask?

Well this month is the ‘No Smoking Day’ health campaign. It’s a national health awareness day aimed at giving the general public the knowledge and tools to quit smoking or to help their loved ones quit. It is funded by a coalition of governmental and voluntary sector organisations with an interest in health. The first ‘No Smoking Day’ was held on Ash Wednesday 1984 by the small charity ‘No Smoking Day’ until this was merged with the British Heart Foundation in 2011. It provided materials and ideas for health workers and organisations to run their own campaigns.

Why it all began!

In 1984 the world of tobacco and smoking was very different compared to what we see 36 years on in 2020.  It is a time when young people aged 16 and over could buy smoking tobacco and under 16‘s could buy other forms of tobacco including oral snuff and sucking tobacco, cigarettes could be sold singularly, people could smoke in the workplace, in public places and on transport including underground trains and planes. Advertising of tobacco was everywhere including major sponsorship for sport events.

The White Ribbon Magazine of 1984 published in their spring edition, an article ‘A Major Success Story’. The article acknowledged the high number of job losses occurring in the tobacco industry during a time of high unemployment, due to the falling demand for cigarettes….”more than a million people have given up smoking in the past two years. Non-smokers now out-number smokers by two to one. The reasons – increases on duty on cigarettes and an increasing public realisation that smoking really is harmful to health”. This article noted that The Royal College of Physicians was urging the Government to ban all advertising of tobacco and Action on Smoking and Health (the preventative medicine charity) and claimed this reduction in smoking as a ‘major success story’.

In our December edition of the same year another tobacco related article featured ‘Doctors Against Smoking‘. This article reported that The British Medical Association was to launch ‘the biggest public health campaign’, with the Association pressing the government to ban cigarette advertising and wanting the government to put ‘blunt’ health warnings on the front, not the sides of packets.

Changes start to happen…….

No Smoking day has been held annually with each year having different themes








No Smoking Day charity acknowledged the work that the health and well being community did in promoting the day by offering a reward scheme. With each year given a theme, health workers and community groups were encouraged to be creative with their messages on smoking dangers and how to quit, and how ‘Big Cig’ can be incorporated into the theme. The White Ribbon Development Team have been keen supporters of this annual event. We have worked with some creative and amazing young people through our Health Champions mentoring scheme to run their own campaigns within their school.  We have also run Awareness Sessions, Assemblies and Health Stands as well as offering free health displays during this health campaign over the years.  Some of our work has been award winning through the Organiser of the Year No Smoking Day Awards from No Smoking Day Charity.  This year will see over 20 health information display boards and literature being delivered across the West Midlands, with others in the UK receiving the information in poster format. We are booked to deliver three health stands to young people in colleges within the West Midlands.

Thanks to rigorous campaigning from various health organizations, medics etc, legislation changes over the last 36 years have changed the way the public look at smoking.  It is not accepted as the norm anymore and smoking numbers, particularly in younger generations, has decreased.  Tobacco is not in your face all the time with advertising being banned even at the point of sale with the latest legislation being the plain packaging rule in 2017 and the smoke free law in 2007 banning smoking in enclosed public places, transport and workplaces.

Sometimes change can take a while to happen but it’s always worth the efforts….

For more help visit NHS Smokefree