How do you make an entire city smoke-free?

As other cities and states started implementing indoor smoking bans, Chicago was a holdout. Previous campaigns that focused on the personal health dangers of smoking didn’t resonate, and Chicagoans rejected the idea of a smoking ban in the city. That’s when the American Cancer Society of Illinois came to Grisko to provide strategic communications and public relations in order to build support for a smoking ban in all Chicago indoor spaces.

Reframing the issue around workers’ rights.

Polling data showed that while people didn’t feel personally impacted by second-hand smoke, they did believe that hospitality employees working every day in smoke-filled environments did face health threats. In order to build public and political support, we reframed the issue with an emphasis on workers’ rights in restaurants and bars.

We worked with the ACS of Illinois to develop a wide-reaching media relations campaign, sending targeted messages about secondhand smoke and workers’ rights to Chicago residents and elected officials through all TV, radio, print outlets and community press. For six months, we relentlessly managed press conferences, arranged editorial board meetings, placed feature stories and developed strategic messages for coalition partners. We recruited musicians and business and community leaders to share our message.

A major turning point came when the Chicago Tribune editorial page reversed its previous opinion to support a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance.

Grisko's design to reframe the smoking ban into a workers' rights issue was a key factor to our success. They were essential and valuable contributors to the Smoke Free Chicago campaign. Adrienne White, Former VP of Health Initiatives and Advocacy, American Cancer Society of Illinois

A shift in public opinion.

Soon after this attention-grabbing media campaign, the Chicago City Council passed a historic comprehensive ordinance, making Chicago smoke-free. The effort achieved what many said could not be done and created a healthier city for Chicago workers, patrons and visitors alike. It also laid the groundwork for the passage of a statewide smoke-free law in Illinois.