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Quit Victoria: 20 years on and still going strong


To mark Quit Victoria's 20th Anniversary, two memorable television advertisements promoting the quit message will reappear on Victorian television screens from this weekend.

One of the advertisements making an encore appearance is the now famous 'Sponge’ commercial, which replicates the damage smoking causes to the lungs by showing a sponge being squeezed - oozing thick brown tar.

 Sponge’ first appeared on Australian television screens twenty years ago, however the effectiveness of its message continues to be felt, with many people naming it as the quit smoking advertisement they most vividly recall.

Quit Victoria’s Executive Director, Mr Todd Harper, said  Sponge’ occupied a very special place in the hearts and minds of Victorians.

""People still talk about the  Sponge’ advertisement today, and that sends a very clear signal that the quit smoking message is every bit as necessary today as it was twenty years ago,"" says Mr. Harper.

“There is a whole new generation of Victorians who have never seen  Sponge.’ People still retain information from the advertisement twenty years from its original airing, giving us tremendous faith that people seeing it for the first time this weekend will find it just as relevant as those that saw it for the first time in 1985.”

“The overwhelming community response to the quit smoking message conveyed in  Sponge’ and other advertisements like it, has been the cornerstone of the partnership between Quit Victoria and the public and this relationship has been vital in reducing smoking rates.”

The other advertisement hitting the screens on the weekend, features comedian Warren Mitchell and was produced 1971 by The Cancer Council Victoria, then known as The Anti-Cancer Council.

This commercial, delivering the quit message with a comic twist, was among the first quit smoking television advertisements seen in Australia and was produced very cheaply with almost no sets.

“The advertisement, dating back to 1971, shows us just how long The Cancer Council Victoria has actively promoted the benefits of quitting smoking to Victorians.”

The 1971 advertisement was part of a group of advertisements initiated by Dr Nigel Gray, the Director of The Cancer Council of Victoria from 1968 to 1995. 

“Dr Gray has been a world leader in advocating for stronger measures to control tobacco, and there is no doubt his dedication to the issue has paved the way for the current work of organisations like Quit Victoria and its partners,’ says Mr Harper.

Advertising isn’t the only area that has developed in the twenty years since Quit Victoria first began, according to Mr Harper.

“Since 1985 over half a million Victorians have called the Quitline.  In the early days of Quit Victoria callers heard a three-minute recorded message using the voice of popular show business identity Daryl Somers.”

“By contrast, the Quitline is now operated by trained advisers and supported by a range of resources developed for the varied needs of smokers.”

Mr Harper acknowledged that although the 20th Anniversary of Quit Victoria is an appropriate time to look at successes of the previous two decades, it was also a time to look toward the challenges of the future.

“There has been a lot of progress in the past 20 years but there is much still to do. Lung cancer is still leading cause of cancer deaths and with 4 700 Victorians dying of tobacco related illness every year, smoking is still the largest cause of preventable deaths in this state.”

“Quit Victoria looks forward to continuing its work with The Cancer Council Victoria, VicHealth, the Heart Foundation, the Department of Human Services and the Victorian community to ensure smoking rates continue to fall and smokefree places continue to thrive,” says Mr Harper.


Further information:

Edwina Vellar,
Media Manager
ph: (03) 9635 5400
mob: 0417 303 811

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