A TMOD theme & script with a social message

Theme ideas for a TMOD session tend to be very boring and common – pollution, festivals, philosophical etc. Here is a theme idea based on an important public message – smoking and how governments across the world are fighting it.


For years, the health department in UK was trying to persuade people to quit smoking. Standard techniques like banning cigarette companies from advertising, placing horrific images of damaged lungs in cigarette boxes, bombasting ads that said “smoking causes cancer” etc. were not working.

In 2005, they started following a new strategy. After conducting studies to understand why young people took to smoking, they realized that one of their biggest reasons was to look cool. Young males thought smoking increased their sex appeal and made them more of a man. With this knowledge in mind, the health department came up with a new anti-smoking campaign that highlighted one of the other major side effects of smoking – impotency. These campaigns said “Smoking causes impotency.” And there was an instant impact. Young boys who thought smoking made them a man suddenly realized smoking may actually have the opposite effect – making them less of a man. This one strategy proved to be vastly more successful than all their previous strategies.  

Countries around the world are realizing that telling people to do something does not work, because nobody likes to be told to do something. No wonder millions of dollars spent on telling people that “smoking causes cancer” or “Junk food leads to obesity” or “Drinking and driving is bad” have been a total waste. Increasingly, more and more countries are coming up with creative campaigns like “smoking causes impotency” to persuade people. Today, let us see some more creative anti-smoking campaigns that countries around the world have adopted.

Before we move ahead, let us see how a toastmasters meeting functions. Our meeting is divided into three parts. The first part consists of prepared speeches where members prepare in advance for a 5 to 7 minute speech, get it mentored and deliver the same. The second part is the fun filled Table Topic session where anyone from the audience can come up and give a 1 to 2 minute speech on a topic given by the Table Topic Master. And the third part is the most important evaluation section where our GE or General Evaluator for the day will give a report on the entire meeting today. Having said that, let me invite on the stage our GE for the day – TM Name.

At this point you may introduce the General Evaluator and than kick off the first session of the meeting – the prepared speech session. Once this session is over, you may continue with the theme as under.

A young man is smoking in a park. Suddenly he is approached by someone who asks for a cigarette. Now if a fellow smoker asks you for a cigarette, the unwritten rule is that you have to give them a cigarette. However, the young man who was smoking replied angrily “Aren’t you scared of cancer” or “go away, smoking will kill you.”

These young men were not actors or public health workers. They were normal every day smokers. Yet they refused because of the identity of the person asking for the cigarette – a child. The child would than take out a chit of paper from his pocket and hand it over to the young man. The paper said “you worry about me but why not worry about yourself” Below this message was a toll free no to help quit smoking.

This campaign was launched by the Thailand government in 2012. For years, they had spent millions of dollars to popularize the toll free no with little success. This campaign was launched at a budget of mere 5000$ and yet received more than 5 million views. Calls to the helpline no jumped 60% and stayed at that level for months. This was their most successful campaign. The big lesson for the Thai government was that quitting smoking is a decision people have to take themselves and cannot be forced upon. Interestingly, this is the whole premises of our next session – the Table Topic Session where you have to take the decision to speak just by raising you hand. I will let the table topic master take the stage now. Please welcome TM Name.

Introduce the Table Topic master here. Once the session is over, continue as under.

Mr Chuck Wolfe had an illustrious career designing several successful programs for the Florida state government. Looking at his track record, the governor decided to give him a unique project – stopping teens, the most rebellious group, from smoking. Teen smoking was a rising menace in Florida and all government efforts went in vain

Chuck began brainstorming with his team on the various approaches and hit upon a devastatingly simple idea that had never been done before. Stop telling teens what to do.

For years, the government told teens not to smoke. Being rebellious, they chose to do the opposite. Rather than repeating the same mistake again, Chuck and his team went out to ask teens their perspectives on smoking.

They launched a Teen Tobacco Summit where the students themselves came together to talk about the problem of smoking and what should they do about it.

Chuck handed out all the facts like how were cigarette companies manipulating them to smoke, how much money them made on every box of cigarette etc without telling them what to do. The teens came up with several new ideas like creating a new organization called SWAT or Students Working against Tobacco and designing new workbooks for schools that had questions like “if 1 box of cigarette generates 2$ of profit for the company, how much profit would you give them by buying three boxes?” etc. Soon after this summit, 30000 teens signed up to quit smoking. The program was a great hit. Soon it was copied across the country wide with great success.

On that note, its now time to see how successful were we in our roles today. Let me invite the General Evaluator to present his report.

At this point, you can call the general evaluator. Once the GE is done with his report, you can share a personal story on how you or someone you know in your friends/family has fought the habit of smoking. You can also invite someone from the audience who is willing to share his experience. This will make the entire session more inclusive.

RELATED: As a good TMOD, make sure you appreciate your Prepared Speakers well to soothe their nerves. Find here how to do it effectively.


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