California Tobacco Control Program Targets Social Smoking With ‘Never Just a Smoke’ Campaign

Duncan Channon launched the new campaign

The agency's campaign targets social smoking among young adults. California Tobacco Control Program
Headshot of Erik Oster

Back in April, Duncan Channon tackled the problem of flavored e-cigarette use amongst teens with its “Flavors Hook Kids” campaign for the California Tobacco Control Program.

Now the agency is targeting a phenomenon more commonly impacting a slightly older demographic: social smoking.

The agency’s “Never Just A Smoke” campaign targets social smoking among young adults, centered around a pair of online ads depicting moderate tobacco users which opens on a casual request for a cigarette.

In each case, a series of memories forces the protagonist to come to the realization that, despite their previous denials, they’ve slipped into regular tobacco use.

“Never Just A Smoke” also includes a series of out-of-home ads in California featuring glitchy photography from Pari Dukovic designed to communicate the same kind of “Oh shit” moment as the online spots through copy suggesting the slippery slope from occasional to regular smoking.

The campaign is based around the insight that social smokers aged 21-35 don’t identify as “smokers” and are inclined to underestimate the potential negative consequences of their tobacco use.

“After discovering that young people who smoke socially rarely see themselves as smokers, we wanted to play with this distorted perception about the pervasiveness of their habit—as well as its harm,” Duncan Channon executive creative director Anne Elisco-Lemme said in a statement. “The campaign places young people in true-to-life social situations that force a moment of self-realization about the truth of their smoking and its impact. We strip away the excuses used to defend social smoking—leaving the viewer with the stark reality of their smoking and its health consequences.”

“The campaign also combats the reality that new forms of tobacco—including hookah, cigarillos, and e-cigarettes such as JUUL— make young people less likely to perceive the health risks of occasional use,” she added. “It’s all too easy to dismiss something you don’t do every day as harmless, especially if it doesn’t look or taste like a traditional cigarette.”

The campaign, which coincides with Pride Month, is also notable for its inclusivity. In addition to both online and OOH ads featuring same sex couples, it will also include animated projections and geotargeted digital videos near LGBTQ Pride events, as well as coasters and posters at LGBTQ bars across Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento.

CTCP also partnered with BuzzFeed for a custom “Regrets You Have After A Night Out” video as part of the campaign.


Client: California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program
Agency: Duncan Channon

• Creative director – Anne Elisco-Lemme
• Creative director – Michael Lemme
• Lead designer/art director – Shannon Burns
• Lead copywriter – MJ Deery
• Copywriter – Derek Taylor
• Art director – Chris Onesto
• Studio designer – Scott Whipple
• Senior broadcast producer – Keenan Hemje
• Senior broadcast producer – Christine Gomez
• Art buyer – Renee Hodges
• Art producer – Porsche Michelle
• Senior art buyer– Diana Courcier
• Print producer – Julie Mastalerz
• Senior digital producer – Eric Kozak
• Producer – Emily Sarale
• Chief strategy officer – Andy Berkenfield
• Strategy director – Kelleen Peckham
• Strategist – Adam Flynn
• Digital strategist – Brandon Sugarman
• Director of communications planning – Leslie Diard
• Group director of communications planning – Rochelle Armstrong
• Communications planning supervisor – Paulo Delacruz
• Communications planner – Caitlin Delaney
• Director of account management – Jamie Katz
• Account director – Kumi Croom
• Account supervisor – Rachel Smutney
• Account supervisor – Vida Thaxton
• Senior account manager – Davis Wolfe
• Associate account manager – Neha Sinha

Video Production
• Production company – MJZ
• Directors – Will Hoffman & Julius Metoyer
• President – David Zander
• Senior executive producer – Eriks Krumins
• Producer – Suza Horvat
• Editorial – Cabin Edit
• Editor – Issac Chen
• Executive producer – Carr Schilling
• Producer – Michelle Dorsch
• Editor & finishing – Kurt Zhuang
• Sound engineer – Joaby Deal, One Union Studios

• Photographer – Pari Dukovic

Website production
• Agency – Beyond
• Senior digital project manager – Marcus Chairez
• Art director – Ross Fischer
• Senior product designer – Rachel Mersky
• Product designer – Agatha Kielczewski
• Technical director – Rowan Laurence
• Front end development lead – Miguel Caires
• Quality assurance lead – Jeffrey Campbell
• Producer – Mark Abraham
• Front end developer – Sarah Mendham
• Senior back end developer – Ching Leung
• Quality assurance analyst – Nikhail AhPo

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.