‘16 Cancers’ Tobacco Control Campaign

Campaign Overview

16 Cancers is a threat-based and graphic style campaign that encourages people who smoke to quit. The campaign highlights the dangers of smoking by linking it to 16 different types of cancer. The creative for 16 Cancers is emotionally powerful, focussing on the distress of a cancer diagnosis. It also highlights the devastating impact that cancer caused by smoking can have on the quality of life of the person directly impacted and their family.

The Institute has licensed 16 Cancers in previous years, the last being in 2017. This campaign exceeded targets for prompting intentions to quit smoking, encouraging people who smoke to make a quit attempt and to seek help to quit. It also showed little to no wear out.

16 Cancers will run in tandem with Beat the Cravings, alternating between the two campaign creatives in market at any given time. With 16 Cancers conveying ‘why’ to quit and Beat the Cravings complementing with a ‘how’ to quit message.

Key messages:

  • Smoking causes 16 different types of cancer. You’ve got one clear way to reduce your risk. Quit smoking.

Key call to actions:

  • Quit smoking. 
  • Click. Call. Quit. Visit iCanQuit or call Quitline on 13 7848.

Who produced this campaign?

16 Cancers was licenced from the Cancer Council WA in 2015 and was successfully adapted for use in NSW for the first broadcast of the campaign in May-June 2016, and again in Sept-Oct 2017.

The development of 16 Cancers was informed by research which showed that less than a quarter of Western Australians could name more than two types of smoking-related cancer. In NSW, awareness levels are similar to those in WA, with only 27.9% of people being able to name two or more cancers caused by smoking.

Evaluation of 16 Cancers in 2017 showed it to be highly effective increasing intentions to quit smoking, increasing quit attempts and encouraging people who smoke to seek help to quit, by informing them of the risks associated with smoking and driving a sense of immediacy of personal risk.

Why we need a campaign

Smoking continues to remain the leading cause of preventable disease and death in NSW – estimated to account for 6,908 deaths in 2019 and 60,192 hospitalisations in 2019/20.

It is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, cancer and a variety of other diseases and conditions. In 2019/20 smoking was responsible for 12.3% of all deaths and 2.1% of hospitalisations in NSW.

In 2021, 12% of NSW adults were current smokers (daily and occasional). This equates to approximately 972,000 NSW adults. This is down from 13.3% in 2020 and 15.5% in 2019.

Evidence demonstrates that anti-tobacco social marketing campaigns are one of the most effective population strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. Campaigns help to communicate and personalise the health risks of smoking, provide hope and confidence to individuals and their ability to quit smoking; and increase their sense of urgency about quitting.

Target audience

The campaign will target adults aged 18+ in NSW who smoke. In particular, the campaign will be aimed towards those who may not be contemplating quitting smoking within the next 6-months.

Television commercials





Please reach out to the team for more information at: CINSW-Prevention@health.nsw.gov.au.

You can also download the PDF version of the campaign toolkit