Two-page Summary: Florida Hospital Association “No But(t)s About It” Campaign
Division A, Category 8
Ron Sachs Communications

Research/Situation Analysis: During the 2009 legislative session, the Florida Hospital Association, representing 168 hospitals across the state, were calling on lawmakers to raise funds to create a long-term revenue stream for funding health care for children, the medically needy and disabled as well as unemployed Floridians by adding a dollar-per-pack tax on cigarette sales. We conducted informal secondary research and found that Florida’s cigarette tax of $0.339 per pack was the fifth lowest in the nation and the national average state tax was $1.19 per pack. Through our research, we also found Florida sold more cigarettes than any other state and had the fourth highest number of adult smokers and the state’s businesses and families absorbed more than $6.2 billion in tobacco related costs amounting to more than $586 per household. Studies showed a direct impact on patient health from smoking because smokers have twice the risk of postoperative infection. We obtained a Quinnipiac poll of Florida voters conducted in January 2009, as another source of secondary research, and found that Floridians supported a $1 increase to the tax on cigarettes by a margin of 72 to 17 percent. Research suggested an increase of only 10 percent in the price of a pack of cigarettes would reduce adult smoking by four percent and teen smoking by seven percent.  Our target audiences were Florida lawmakers, statewide media and Florida residents.

1.  By February 2009, secure at least one lawmaker to serve as the legislative champion for the cigarette tax bill (SB 1840) and participate in at least two press events at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee.
2.  By March 2009, secure at least three statewide organizations to endorse the dollar-a-pack cigarette tax by hosting a news conference in Tallahassee.
3.  By May 2009, secure at least four positive editorials or columns endorsing the cigarette tax in major daily newspapers across Florida.

Implementation:  The firm created the “No but(t)s about it” campaign to educate our target audiences about the importance of funding health care through revenue from the increase in the tobacco tax. In March, we kicked off the “No but(t)s about it” campaign with the Florida Hospital Association (FHA), hospital CEOs and bill sponsor Sen. Ted Deutch. The kick-off event generated media coverage and attention from lawmakers and the governor. We developed weekly bulletins that we e-mailed to lawmakers with facts about smoking, supportive quotes from news stories and testimonials from smokers who pledged to quit if the cigarette tax passed. We also created a “news conference kit” for hospital CEOs and faith-based groups to use at local news events. Additionally, we reached out to third-party groups including the Florida Professional Firefighters, Florida Cancer Research Centers and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids to create unique events to keep the issue in the news week after week throughout the legislative session. Each event featured key lawmakers who participated by speaking at our news conferences. At the Professional Firefighters event, we highlighted cigarettes as one of the leading causes of illness and fire deaths in the state and had two firefighters as guest speakers. The next news event was with Florida’s five cancer research centers and touched on the need to continue funding cancer medical research and featured a cancer survivor whose life had been saved by a clinical trial. Finally, we brought 15,000 pencils to the Capitol, symbolizing the number of cigarettes smoked by kids every 30-minutes, and featured students who messaged on ways to decrease smoking among youths. We produced MP3s and videos and distributed to radio and TV stations and posted on FHA and third-party supporter Web sites. All of these events generated extensive, positive statewide media coverage for cigarette tax increase, including news stories on an economic impact study released by FHA and endorsed by the Florida Chamber about detrimental cuts in Medicaid spending at hospitals should the state not find a stable revenue source.

Evaluation:  In a historic bi-partisan move during the extended Legislative Session, the Florida Legislature voted to pass the $1 increase on the cigarette tax. 1.) We exceeded our objective of securing one lawmaker to support the tax increase by February 2009 as measured by securing the support of three lawmakers who participated in news events:  Sen. Ted Deutch, Sen. J.D. Alexander and Sen. Nan Rich. 2.) We exceeded our objective of securing three organizations to publically endorse the cigarette tax by March 2009 by 10 percent as measured by enlisting four groups: Florida Professional Firefighters, Florida’s Cancer Research Centers, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and the Florida Chamber that hosted news events in support of the tax. 3.) Finally, we surpassed our objective of securing four positive editorials/columns endorsing the cigarette tax increase in major daily newspapers by 125 percent as measured by positive editorials/columns published in nine newspapers from March through May 2009.

Budget: Our budget was $65,000 for research, campaign development, Web and graphic design, printing, video production, audio/visual equipment and media relations. We dedicated $47,400 salary dollars to this campaign.