Art attack or heart attack? cutting edge artists exhibit powerful anti-smoking work

Tuesday 21 November 2000

Embargo: 11:00am – 21 November 2000

Can modern art help smokers quit? An exciting new approach to persuading smokers to kick the habit is to being launched today at London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery. The World Health Organization (Europe) has commissioned twenty artists to create works of art on the theme of stopping smoking.

The work will be unveiled for the first time at the Whitechapel and will then be exhibited in a number of galleries in other European cities. The art is being reproduced on posters to be distributed in doctors’ surgeries and pharmacies around the country.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH, said:

“It’s an inspired union of modern culture and health campaigning, and a credit to the World Health Organisation for taking on such an imaginative venture. The art taps into an understanding of smoking at a deeper and more intuitive level than the usual anti-smoking campaign advertising. The unsettling and anxious relationship that many people have with tobacco comes through very strongly in the work, and, as in real life smoking,a thin veil of ironic frivolity guards the serious and disturbing emotions within.”

To coincide with the “ArtWORKS” campaign, new guidelines on smoking cessation for health professionals will be launched. The idea is to inspire interest in quitting and to ensure that doctors and health professionals are ready to respond. The guidelines, produced by the Health Development Agency, will be published in the journal Thorax and are now available on the ASH web site.

Dr.Ann McNeill, one of the authors of the guidelines, commented:

“The art is powerful and exciting, but we also have to make it count by taking the works out of the gallery and into places where people will see them and respond. With several thousands posters going to doctors’ surgeries and pharmacies, this is a bold new approach to communicating with smokers. Our new guidance is there to ensure the health community is ready to respond.

We know that helping people to quit smoking is just about the most cost effective use of NHS resources, but we need to win over the doctors and get them actively involved. The new guidelines show what every doctor, nurse, pharmacist or other health professional needs to know if they are going to play their part in preventing the cancer, heart disease and multiple miseries caused by addiction to tobacco and nicotine.”


  • ArtWORKS will be open to the public at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, 80-82 Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 from 22-24 November