Is There Such a Thing as a "Safe" Cigarette?

Development of community-based activities around the NOVA documentary on modified tobacco products

A one-hour NOVA television documentary, "Search for a Safe Cigarette," investigated current efforts to create less toxic cigarettes in 2001. It was created by WGBH (a public television station in Boston), and aired on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations throughout the country on October 2, 2001.

To further the impact of the NOVA documentary subject matter, MasComm Associates, a communications firm in Madison, Wis., helped PBS stations in 10 states produce community-based tobacco control efforts, including more than 40 segments or programs on PBS and commercial TV stations and nine community initiatives, with related material on seven stations' websites.

Key Results

  • The show investigated several types of modified cigarettes. Scientists remain uncertain about whether or not these products are less harmful, and they underscore the importance of having a government agency put regulations in place for both conventional and modified cigarettes.

  • WGBH conducted a comprehensive publicity campaign for the documentary including launching a comprehensive website three months before the airing. They also mailed about 2,500 media kits to reporters nationally and did a second mailing with a preliminary video.

  • In the grassroots counterpoint to the national NOVA program, local projects connected to the NOVA program were conducted in Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington. All activities included an airing of "Search for a Safe Cigarette."