DUKE executive creative director, Mike Beukes, says, "While the number of smokers has decreased globally, vaping is quickly reversing that count based on the belief that it is a benign habit. Although the health risks of tobacco are well known, we don't yet have irrefutable evidence of the overall, long-term health impact of vaping, because it has only been around for a relatively short while." 

"There is, however, emerging evidence about the dangers of electronic smoking devices. But you will remember that we also believed cigarettes to be harmless until decades of clinical research and evidence proved us entirely wrong," adds Beukes.

"There are some short-term studies that claim that vaping is harmless, but these are largely funded by big tobacco [companies] and can essentially be construed as fake news stories since it's impossible to guarantee there won't be damaging long-term effects," says Beukes. "To discredit these claims, we created a powerful 'Fake News' campaign of our own — because what better way to fight fake news than with more fake news?" he says.

The online campaign consisted of over 10 different articles posted on Twitter and Facebook, each with headlines such as:
  • 'Vaping is causing pieces of my teeth to break off,' says young vaper
  • 'Everything I eat tastes like cherry candyfloss,' says vaper
  • 'My 10-year-old keeps stealing and smoking my vape'
  • 'Vaping made my gums pus' says UK reality TV star
The DUKE team says that once readers clicked through to read the article, they were lead to a fictitious news site entitled nobodyknowsnews.com. While clickbait lead them to the site, upon reading the article, the audience would realise that the headlines aren't as 'far-fetched' as they may seem, says the DUKE team.

Each article educated on the real facts about vaping — the chemicals that are being inhaled, the aerosol that is exhaled and the fact that there is no concrete proof that it isn't doing any irreparable damage.

Beukes says, "As predicted, the social media reaction was extreme and outrageous, as people tagged their friends in the posts and shared out of concern. It definitely helped get our point across and generated a great deal of discussion and debate."

Pamela Naidoo, chief executive professor at HSFSA, says, "We are sitting with a population that is blissfully unaware that they may, in fact, be doing irreparable damage to their bodies through vaping — and worse still is the fact that they have been lead to believe it is safe."

"DUKE’s campaign has done an excellent job of putting that message across, getting people talking and educating them that they are essentially participating as human guinea pigs in one of biggest medical trials in history — the results of which shall only be known decades down the line," adds Naidoo.

The campaign was also supported by a PR campaign, which delivered the 'real news' information that is known about vaping, the dangers and what is still to be learnt about it. Stories appeared in a wide variety of key media, including News24.com, the Sunday Argus and on ClassicFM.

The campaign delivered over 23.5 million impressions with over 300 000 click-throughs to the fake news site, as well as a CPM of 9.03. The entire fake news campaign can be viewed online at www.nobodyknowsnews.com.

For more information, visit www.duke.co.za

*Image courtesy of DUKE.