California Tobacco Prevention Program

The rise of vaping

Discover how we created an award-winning website to educate the public on all the ways the tobacco industry encourages addiction in young people. We also provided supporting resources to help parents protect their children and make it easier for them to take action.

What’s the appeal?

Among California’s young people, the practice of vaping — smoking tobacco-free, flavoured nicotine — was on the up. No longer the preserve of smokers trying to downgrade their habit, vaping was increasingly being adopted by teenagers who’d never touched a cigarette in their life. The reason? The concentrated effort of the tobacco industry to use the tools at their disposal — appealing colours, candy-floss flavours, and attractive tech — to hook a new generation on their products.

But far from being plain tobacco’s friendlier, safer cousin, vape fluid – with its potent chemical mix and high levels of nicotine – comes with its own health risks, especially to young people’s developing brains.

The California Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) asked us to use our wealth of educational experience to develop a way to raise awareness among parents and the public of two areas of concern:

  • The rise in popularity of flavoured vape products with kids.
  • The damage nicotine can do to the brain.

We would design and deliver a website that not only educated its viewers on these issues, but also encouraged them to take action.


Unique parental guide views


Letters sent to local officials


Awards: social good, civic design and website categories

Not so safe: repositioning vaping

We engaged our target audience — worried parents — to find out the best way to equip them with the knowledge, incentives and tools they would need to broach the subject with their children, and also take their concerns to local leaders.

The content naturally shaped the format. We had a wealth of information to convey, and in order to make it as easily digestible as possible, we opted for bite-sized, modular experiences across the website, with streamlined storytelling and eye-catching design. We created a gridded page flow that was clean, uncluttered and intuitive, so there was no barrier to understanding.

In less than two months, we:

  • undertook user testing and research.
  • designed a content strategy and established site architecture.
  • delivered an educational, interactive website, designed to provoke action.
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Designing for impact and clarity

The use of a solid black background gave a sombre quality to the site appropriate to its content. Blocky, all-caps headlines in white created a sense of urgency and felt like a warning. And the use of red accents under anchor text and in progress bars contributed to the sense of danger. Elsewhere, photographic images of vaping teens were treated with striking rainbow grads, providing momentary relief from the darkness – and also echoing the charm and allure these vape products have for teenagers.

Minimal copy and clear infographics allowed the serious messaging space to fully land. Subtle instances of movement helped key messaging pop.

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Inspired, engaged, involved

There were two main goals the website needed to achieve – first, to educate its viewers about the tobacco industry’s manipulation of young people, and the dangers of nicotine to the developing brain, and second, to move these viewers to take action. To make this as easy as possible, we designed a variety of ways for people to get involved: from letter writing and conversation guides to module-by-module social sharing opportunities. We also included a prominent call to action, Voice Your Concern, on every site page.

Just under 500,000 site visitors have met our educated site visitor criteria. And over 10,500 people sent letters to their local mayors to raise concerns around vaping.

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... and awarded

We're proud that the site has received the following awards:

  • 2019 Hermes Creative Award winner in the Social Good category
  • 2019 San Francisco Design Week winner in the Civic Design category
  • 2018 Gold Davey Award winner in the Websites category