Unless urgent action is taken to reverse this global epidemic, tobacco will kill as many as one billion people this century, making it the greatest single source of preventable death and disease. Since 2008, Vital Strategies has worked with 41 countries to deliver more than 350 evidence-based, cost-effective population-level media campaigns that build local capacity and raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco.
To mark World No Tobacco Day on May 31,2020, Vital Strategies launched over a dozen campaigns and initiatives echoing the World Health Organization’s theme to protect youth from industry manipulation and prevent them from tobacco and nicotine use. The campaigns reached millions around the world and leveraged multiple media platforms including social media—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok—along with more traditional spots on TV and radio and virtual events.
2020 World No Tobacco Day Campaigns
Reaching Bangladesh, India, Indonesia,Pakistan, Philippines, and the United States, industry watchdog STOP used social media to expose how tobacco companies have covertly and deliberately designed their products and marketing messages to exploit young people’s interests and get them addicted. The campaign hit 1 million impressions!
In Turkey, Vital Strategies organized a video conference call between youth advocates and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey. The call included young people, Olympians, and scientists and was broadcasted live across 60 channels and livestreamed across 630 online news outlets. The hashtag #TütünsüzGençlik (TobaccoFreeYouth) was a trending topic that day asparticipants spoke about the need to raise taxes, resist industry’s lobbying for e-cigs and heated tobacco products, smoke-free rights and standard packaging for cigarettes. In a win for tobacco control, after the call, President Erdoğan announced he would raise tobacco taxes in Turkey.
In Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, China, India, Bangladesh, Mexico and Myanmar, Vital Strategies launched the Don’t Start campaign and hashtag #CutOffTobacco on TikTok and Instagram. The campaign aims to engage youth by collecting 1 million reasons to never start smoking, vaping or chewing tobacco. As of early June, over 50,000 reasons have already been collected worldwide reaching 12 million people. The Don’t Start campaign will continue over the next few months, integrating digital activation with a call to action to support tobacco control policies including a ban on Tobacco, Advertising and Promotion (TAPs). In Indonesia, the “Don’t Start to Never Stop” campaign launched across eight countries. The campaign invites people to share stories on Instagram about why they chose to quit tobacco or why they will never start, and how that will make their lives better. The goal is to collect one million reasons to never start smoking.
In China, the Population and Cultural Development Center and Vital Strategies organized a World No Tobacco Day virtual event that showcased four PSAs intended to strengthen public perception of the harms of tobacco, support smoke-free legislation, and protect youth from tobacco products with increased tobacco taxation. So far, the campaign has reached over 9 million people through social media.
In India, working with the Punjab State Health Department in India, Vital Strategies supported the launch of a mass media campaign, “I Don’t Believe” highlighting the impact tobacco can have on the health of a tobacco user and of their family. For one month the campaign will run on digital platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Hotstar and Voot in 17 Indian languages.
Yangon, Myanmar, a city in the Partnership for Healthy Cities network, launched a campaign to highlight the increased risk of COVID-19 for tobacco users. Over 100,000 people were reached on Facebook using the #LesBeatCOVIDTogether and #Cities4Health. Working with the Punjab State Health Department in India, Vital Strategies supported the launch of a mass media campaign, “I Don’t Believe” highlighting the impact tobacco can have on both the health of a tobacco user and that of their family.
In Vietnam, Vital Strategies worked in collaboration with National Youth Association and Vietnam Fund for Tobacco Control to conduct an online contest on Tiktok for young adults to amplify the important message: “Vietnam youth says no to tobacco and E-cigarettes!” Over 250 clips were submitted and encouraged the engagement of 26,000 people. The hashtags #thanhnienVietnam (Vietnamese youth) and #noikhongvoithuocla (say no to tobacco) reached over 3.6 million people! The next phase of the campaign will showcase the top videos and ask youth to join policy efforts by supporting the ban of e-cigarettes in the country.
In Mexico, a digital engagement campaign focused on promoting a healthy lifestyle included an exercise challenge (#SinTabacoChallenge) asking youth to promote healthier habits, including exercising, through sharing their exercise routines. For #SinTabacoChallenge the live classes were seen for more than 17,000 people and almost 200 hours were watched. In addition, we reached more than a million people with #SinTabacoChallenge across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
In Ukraine, a press briefing outside the Ukrainian Parliament, Verkhovna Rada, garnered attention from Members of Parliament on the aggressive advertising the tobacco industry uses to hook youth on tobacco products. The press briefing built on this year’s theme to protect youth from the industry and to build support for Draft Law 2813 which is currently pending hearing from Parliament and would close all existing gaps in Ukraine’s tobacco control legislation including standardized packaging and strong labeling. The campaign aired on TV and social media inside the Parliament.
Press Statements and Further Reading
- Think Global Health, Covid-19 and Tobacco: Unmasking the Smoke Screen World No Tobacco Day 2020 by José Luis Castro and Princess Dina Mired, President of the Union for International Cancer Control
- Statement from José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies on World No Tobacco Day, May 31, 2020
- Declaración de José Luis Castro, Presidente y CEO de Vital Strategies en el Día Mundial Sin Tabaco, 31 de mayo de 2020
- Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Blowing Unsmoke
- The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Big Tobacco Use Menthol Cigarette Ban to Promote Rival Products by Matthew Chapman
- 10 Ways the Tobacco Industry Targets Youth (STOP)
About Vital Strategies’ Tobacco Control Program
Since 2008, Vital Strategies has worked with 41 countries to deliver more than 350 evidence-based, cost-effective population-level media campaigns that build local capacity and raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco. Our campaigns encourage quitting, delaying initiation and supporting policy goals, such as smoke-free environments and tobacco tax increases. Over the long term, this helps change behaviors around the acceptability of smoking and attitudes around the tobacco industry. To date, our campaigns have been seen by more than 2 billion people.
For more information about Vital Strategies’ work on tobacco control, visit vitalstrategies.org/programs/tobacco-control/.
About Vital Strategies
Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in over 70 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.