Program Recap - The Politics and the PR May 2011

wmprsamay2011programpoliticsandpr_047 (Medium) The Michigan Campaign for Smokefree Air, along with the American Cancer Society and many Michigan residents, recently celebrated the one year anniversary of Michigan’s smoking ban. Since the ban took effect on May 1, 2010, general support has continued to grow and compliance is high. Judy Stewart, state government relations director for the American Cancer Society and campaign manager of the Michigan Campaign for Smokefree Air, and Emily Gerkin Palsrok, managing director of public affairs at Lambert, Edwards & Associates, spoke with the WMPRSA group about the challenges and successes of the campaign.


The Campaign for Smokefree Air began the long fight to victory in 2005. At that time, there were only eight states smoke free and, with little emphasis on social media, the campaign had to find their power in grassroots organizations and the passion of Michigan’s residents. The campaign received high public support right away, with nearly two-thirds in favor of the ban. Legislative support, however, was a bit more difficult to come by. With new legislation being brought in every two years, re-education and consistent messaging was key for the campaign’s success.

A continuous push for messaging in media relations tactics was ultimately the key to the campaign’s success. Campaign members were adamant about producing studies and surveys that provided factual evidence that would quiet the opposition. Such studies included revealing results from local air quality testing, opinion polling and the Surgeon General’s report. The campaign also heavily relied on support and testimonials from individuals in favor of the bill. The committee took advantage of new social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to launch “Act Now or Forever Hold Your Breath,” an online campaign, in 2009.

The social media push seemed to be what was needed towards the end and, in December 2009, the bill passed. On May 1, 2010, Michigan was the 42nd state to go smoke free. Today, despite positive feedback, the campaign is still defending the law and is now working to help other states, such as Indiana, do the same. This program proved to be an excellent case study in public affairs.