Tobacco and anti-tobacco advertisement in Poland, 1989-2000
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London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Public Health and Policy, United Kingdom
Health Promotion Foundation, Poland
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A91
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Smoking prevalence in communist Poland reached the highest level in the world in the 1980s. Despite the state-sanctioned anti-tobacco campaigns less than half of all Poles believed that smoking was a serious hazard to health. In 1989, as communism collapsed, transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) entered Poland. TTCs spent US$100 million annually on cigarette publicity, becoming the leading advertiser in the country. The TTCs predicted an increase in cigarette sales in Poland.
Instead, a rapid decline in smoking occurred in the 1990s. A very active health advocacy movement developed, attempting to counteract the marketing efforts of TTCs, also through anti-tobacco advertising. By the end of the century cultural norms shifted - a European survey showed that by the late 1990s Poland had the highest acceptance of anti-smoking measures in Europe.

A thematic analysis of relevant advertising materials produced between 1989 and 2000 available in Polish media archives, collections of anti-tobacco advocacy groups, and tobacco industry websites, was conducted.

After the collapse of communism both tobacco and antitobacco messaging in Poland focused around four major themes - the appeal of smoking to children, the use of historical and patriotic motifs, employing shock tactics, and the struggle over which lifestyle embodies 'western' values. Many of the anti-tobacco images were designed by Poland's leading poster artists and were characterised by high artistic value.

Polish anti-tobacco advocates successfully reclaimed many of the themes and values used by the TTCs in promoting smoking. They challenged the industry's attempts to portray smoking as a 'western' habit, employed patriotic tropes and shock tactics, and steered the debate towards the health effects of tobacco use.