Rage Against the Haze is a story about a lovely place that sits smack dab in the middle of Big Tobacco’s backyard – and the teens who found their voice and rose up across the state to do something powerful.
Back in the early 2000s, South Carolina became one of the recipients of a hefty chunk of change courtesy of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Initially, South Carolina set up a program where adults were working with adolescents. The teens felt stifled, and things weren’t really going anywhere. Meanwhile, around the country, Truth.com was causing a stir. Kids were going off to Truth events, and coming back inspired. One thing became clear: what was happening in South Carolina wasn’t working, and it was time for a change.
Instead of working with adults to develop a new program identity, we went straight to the source: teens. By making them a part of the decision-making process, they got excited. They realized they had power, a voice and the ability to carry the movement across the state.
A portion of the money that South Carolina received was earmarked for awareness. With 80% of South Carolina’s teens spread amongst 20 counties, we knew we’d have to find a way to make the message relevant to everyone. So the RAGE team loaded up Marilyn, a big blue couch, and hit the road. From RAGE events to the State Museum, Marilyn popped up everywhere, giving teens a place to sit and talk about what was going on in their lives and communities. Over time, she became synonymous with our message, and wherever they went, South Carolinians kept their eyes open for a glimpse of that beloved, blue beauty.
One of the big lessons we’ve learned over the years is that you can try to create your own party, but you’re usually a lot better off going to wherever the party is already happening. Instead of pouring more money into media, we opted for a little Friday Night RAGE. Each week, our RAGE team would hit the road and head to whatever we had dubbed “the game of the week.” Once RAGE started showing up at pep rallies and on scoreboards, word traveled fast. Friday Night RAGE became an invaluable touch point that allowed us to go into small towns across the state and reach thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of people in a single night.
Realizing that the word “curriculum” drives terror into the hearts of teens, we developed a field guide that relied on engaging visuals, surprising facts and historical anecdotes to educate and empower teens with knowledge about smoking and the harmful effects of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Rather than producing hand-to-hand tools for teens, we engaged them in the process. After a little group brainstorming, Brains on Fire brought their visions to life in the form of palm cards, stickers, buttons and t-shirts to help spread the word about RAGE.
South Carolina saw a 19% drop in the smoking rate (without a tobacco tax increase).
Rage Against the Haze has had over 4000 engaged youth.
Rage Against the Haze was awarded an EFFIE for its effectiveness.