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April 16, 2019

In Six Large Cities in Asia, Collaboration Brings New Strategies to Anti-Tobacco Fight

Six cities in Asia that have long faced stubbornly high rates of smoking are now learning from each other about how to push towards a healthier future.

Last week, representatives from cities in the Partnership for Healthy Cities—Bandung, Indonesia; Bengaluru, India; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kathmandu, Nepal; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Yangon, Myanmar—came together in Bangkok to learn from tobacco control experts and to share their own successes with peers. The three-day training and workshop in Bangkok also included a monitoring and evaluation session and hands-on strategizing about how to use mass media communication campaigns to support tobacco control. Other case studies included lessons in enforcing tobacco control laws and garnering attention from news media.

The workshop featured presentations by WHO’s Douglas Bettcher (back row, left), The Union’s Tara Singh Bam (center) and Vital Strategies’ Enrico Aditjondro (back row, third from left) and Ramya Kancharla (far right).

“It’s all about telling stories,” Enrico Aditjondro of Vital Strategies told the group before guiding them through exercises on gauging the best channels for reaching the public, whether through television, radio ads, social media, outreach to journalists or community-level engagement.

In one exercise, participants mapped out communication channels suitable for reaching the public with tobacco control messages in their own cities.

Dr. Thriveni S. Beerenahally described the experience of her own city, Bengaluru, as an example of successful communication work.

“You don’t need to spend so much money in running effective campaigns,” she said, “but you do need to be strategic and diligent.”

In the first two years of the Partnership, as Bengaluru ramped up enforcement of smoke-free laws, which ban smoking in indoor and outdoor public spaces, Dr. Thriveni and her team spent time nurturing relations with journalists in their city—and managed to win press coverage as a result.

The city also ran billboards with pictures of children being exposed to secondhand smoke at home; broadcasted a video featuring the story of a woman who contracted throat cancer because her husband smoked; and ran a steady social media campaign focused on the hazards (and unpleasantness) of smoking in offices, movie theaters and more.

A series of billboards in Benguluru emphasized the harms of secondhand smoke in the home.

The city’s very specific example prompted workshop participants to discuss how certain aspects might work, or not, at home.

“It’s good to think of the global picture of tobacco control, but I urge you to act locally, customize the initiatives with your city’s needs,” Douglas Bettcher of the World Health Organization (WHO) told the group.

Participants left the workshop with plans in hand for taking their Partnership projects into the future. For instance, Jakarta will work to enforce tobacco advertising bans, promotion and sponsorship and the five other cities will work  to become completely smoke-free. They also now have a close network of regional partners to stay in touch with as each plan unfolds.

Vital Strategies is the implementing partner of the Partnership, a global network of 54 cities committed to saving lives by preventing injuries and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO. Through the Partnership, cities have chosen from among 10 proven interventions, including creating a smoke-free city and banning tobacco advertising.


About the Partnership for Healthy Cities:

The Partnership for Healthy Cities is a prestigious global network of cities committed to saving lives by preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries. Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with WHO, as well as Vital Strategies, this initiative enables cities around the world to deliver a high-impact policy or programmatic intervention to reduce NCD risk factors in their communities. For more information, visit:

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