Be a Reel Hero
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Frequently Asked Questions

So you have decided to send in a submission for the Be a Reel Hero contest, have read over the Official Rules and Requirements and still have questions? Read on.

  1. Who should submit an entry?

    This contest is open to both amateur and professional filmmakers who are California residents and are at least 18 years old.

  2. Who is the target audience for viewing the ads being created?

    All entries should be directed to California’s adult population. The primary target audience is adults, age 25 to 54. While we all want kids never start smoking, experience has demonstrated that changing the attitudes and smoking behavior of adults have the greatest positive impact on youth smoking. By changing the environment we all live in, we increase the likelihood that children will grow up tobacco-free.

  3. What are the anti-tobacco TV commercials which have been aired by the California Department of Public Health before?

    To view a selection of recent commercials by the California Department of Public Health, visit To view the grand prize winning ad and finalists from the 2007-08 Be a Reel Hero contest, click here.

  4. What anti-tobacco message or information should I focus on in my commercial?

    You should have a clear message in your commercial which focuses on one of the following:

    • The negative impacts of secondhand smoke, especially on kids.
    • How the tobacco industry markets their deadly product to specific groups (e.g. LGBT, African Americans).
    • Stories of how tobacco has hurt you and your family or friends.
    • The health impacts of tobacco use in the LGBT community.
    • The impact cigarette butts have on our environment.
  5. What is not allowed in my submission?

    • Profanity, vulgar or inappropriate content.
    • Dangerous stunts or unsafe conduct.
    • Company logos, product logos or trademarks. This includes those visible on clothing worn by talent in the commercial or cigarette brand names.
    • Distinctive packaging or branded elements, such as actual cigarette brand names and packaging.
    • Copyrighted or trademarked items, including but not limited to music, audio, speech/voiceovers, photography, video, supers, or other audiovisual materials.
    • Any union talent, including Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
  6. Is there anything that I should I be cautious about?

    • Be careful about not including smoking cues, which are actions that make smoking visually enticing and appealing. In some instances, smoking scenes may be necessary to get a certain message across, just be careful to make smoking look like an activity you would NOT want to participate in.
    • Be careful not to glamorize or make smoking look “sexy.”
    • Avoid an overly humorous or comical tone.
  7. Can the talent in the ads be members of the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG)?

    Unfortunately, ads that include members of the SAG or other talent unions are not eligible for submission.

  8. What if I don’t follow the directions?

    Submissions which do not adhere to the directions provided in the Official Rules and Requirements may be disqualified.

  9. When is the deadline for submission of materials?

    All entries must be received by 5 p.m. (PST) January 13, 2012, regardless of method of delivery. The entry is final once received and will not be returned. Entries must be delivered to:

    Be a Reel Hero Contest
    c/o Allison & Partners
    11611 San Vicente Blvd., 9th Floor
    Los Angeles, CA 90049
  10. Can I have my DVD back?

    All entries become property of the California Department of Public Health and will not be returned. Don’t forget to make yourself a copy!

  11. How will the submissions be judged?

    All submissions will be scored by a judging panel which will include representatives from government, public health, tobacco control and the film production industry. The public will also vote for their favorite ad and will be counted as a member of the judging panel.

  12. How will I know if I’m a finalist or if I’ve won?

    Those submissions which are selected as finalists will be posted on on February 6, 2012. The Grand Prize Winner will be notified by phone in March 2012 and posted on

  13. What is the grand prize?

    • One grand prize will be awarded to the submission with the highest combined score. The grand prize will be the airing of the winning commercial on television in California.
    • Additional prizes may be announced during the course of the contest or during the winner announcement.
  14. Are there any other prizes or recognition other than the grand prize?

    Although the only prize awarded is the grand prize, all entrants who reach the public voting phase will be recognized as finalists and have their ad made available for viewing on In addition, the ads of the top finalists will be used in various exciting ways by the California Department of Public Health. (See question 15)

  15. How did you use the finalist videos from the last contest?

    Finalists from the 2007-08 Be a Reel Hero contest have been used by anti-tobacco advocates who work to educate people on the harmful effects of tobacco use. They have been:

    • Aired before an episode of American Idol (grand prize winning ad only).
    • Used by local, state and international anti-tobacco programs for use in educational media campaigns.
    • Aired in movie theaters before movies with tobacco use.
    • Shown before independent films at film festivals.
    • Shown to youth to prevent them from starting to smoke.
    • Placed on the California Department of Public Health YouTube channel.
  16. Will I receive any feedback on what could have improved my commercial?

    Unfortunately, we are not able to provide entrants with feedback regarding the merits or areas for improvement of their entries.

  17. I have a question, how can I reach you?

    Please email your questions to A response to your email will be sent within two business days.

Tobacco Facts

The following are facts about tobacco use, the tobacco industry, secondhand smoke, LGBT tobacco use and the environmental impact of cigarette butts. Using tobacco facts in your submission is not required. However, if you choose to do so, please use one of these. They do not have to be used verbatim.

Tobacco Use

  • Tobacco use remains as the number one cause of preventable disease, disability and death, killing one out of two lifelong smokers prematurely.
  • Smoking kills more women than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined.
  • Smoking kills more people than drugs, alcohol, murder, suicide, car crashes and AIDS combined.
  • Every day, over 1,200 people die from smoking cigarettes in the U.S.
  • Every year, more than 400,000 people die prematurely from tobacco use in the nation.
  • African Americans still smoke more and suffer more often from tobacco-related diseases and death.

The Tobacco Industry

  • Cigarettes, designed by Big Tobacco, are made to hook people into a lifetime of addiction.
  • Tobacco companies use additives, like ammonia, to increase the addictiveness of nicotine.

Targeting Vulnerable Populations

  • The tobacco industry specifically targets vulnerable populations with marketing tactics designed to increase tobacco use among these groups.
  • The tobacco industry openly targets gays and lesbians, placing ads in LGBT publications. These ads manipulate LGBT values to make smoking seem appealing to the community.
  • The tobacco industry aggressively markets cigarettes to ethnic populations, like Hispanics, Asians and African Americans. These campaigns take positive cultural characteristics and values, manipulating them to attract and addict new smokers.
  • The tobacco industry specifically markets menthol cigarettes to African Americans. Today, over 70 percent of African American smokers prefer menthol cigarettes, compared with only 30 percent of White smokers.

Secondhand Smoke

  • Secondhand smoke is toxic and causes tens of thousands of deaths each year in the U.S.
  • The California Air Resources Board has designated secondhand smoke as a toxic air contaminant in the same category as toxic pollutants like asbestos and cyanide.
  • According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Secondhand smoke can cause cancer, heart disease, low birth weight, pre-term delivery, chronic ear infections in children, asthma in adults and children, and other serious respiratory illnesses.
  • Secondhand smoke causes asthma in children, a disease which can not be cured.
  • While everyone exposed to secondhand smoke is at risk, there is a special concern for children, who are especially vulnerable to exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Secondhand smoke contains more than 70 cancer-causing chemicals and is a known human carcinogen.
  • For nonsmokers, even brief exposure to tobacco smoke has immediate effects. Over time this increases the risk for heart disease and lung cancer.
  • Everyone has the right to breathe air free from toxic tobacco smoke.

Health Impacts of Tobacco Use on LGBT Community

  • The LGBT community has one of the highest smoking rates among all sub-populations.
  • LGBTs are twice as likely to smoke as non-LGBTs, and the smoking rates are higher for LGBT women and young adult LGBTs.
  • Over 30,000 LGBT people die each year of tobacco-related diseases, according to an American Cancer Society estimate.

Environmental Impact of Cigarette Butts

  • Cigarette butts are toxic.
  • Cigarette butts release the same toxic chemicals found in secondhand smoke, such as arsenic, lead and nicotine, into the environment.
  • Tobacco waste damages the environment and is poisonous to children, pets and wildlife.
  • More than 360 billion cigarettes are consumed in the Unites States annually, leading to 135 million pounds of discarded butts.
  • Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, a plastic which is supposedly biodegradable. In practice, cellulose acetate is resistant to biodegradation and can persist in the environment for many years.
  • California public agencies spend millions of dollars annually on litter clean-up.

To Learn More

To learn more about tobacco use and anti-tobacco programs in California, visit these sites:


Tells a friend about the hell hero contest

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