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Mount Mass Media Campaign to Show How Much Tar is in an Average Smoker’s Lungs

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(Port Louis, Mauritius and New York, USA) – The Mauritius Ministry of Health and Quality of Life (MOH & QL) has begun a national mass media campaign, which graphically depicts the amount of tar found in the average smoker’s lungs. The “Sponge” campaign will air nationally on TV, radio and billboards across Mauritius. World Lung Foundation is providing technical and financial support for the campaign.

The “Sponge” campaign compares lungs to sponges, as both have the ability to absorb material like air or tar. Based on the fact that the average pack-a-day smoker accumulates 125 mL of tar in his/her lungs every year, the “Sponge” campaign shows a hand squeezing this amount of tar out of a sponge and into a beaker. The campaign will run for three weeks, with its launch timed to coincide with activities for World No Tobacco Day (May 30).

“Sponge”was originally created and used effectively as part of a comprehensive tobacco control program in Australia, by the Cancer Institute New South Wales. The “Sponge” ads were rigorously tested in more than a dozen countries and were found to motivate smokers to try to quit.

Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Policy and Communications, World Lung Foundation, said, “Highly graphic messages can motivate people to stop smoking. The ‘Sponge’ campaign uses strong imagery to communicate that cigarette smoke can cause serious harm to smokers and non-smokers. We congratulate the Mauritian government for running this campaign in their continued efforts to reduce the toll of tobacco use, and we applaud their leadership in tobacco control in Africa.”

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of mortality in the world today, and is responsible for more than five million deaths each year—one in ten preventable deaths worldwide. In Mauritius more than 40% of adult men smoke, and it is estimated that tobacco causes as many as 1,000 deaths every year in the country.

Research has shown that mass media campaigns are one of the most effective means to encourage people to stop smoking. It is one of the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. MPOWER strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, of which World Lung Foundation is a principal partner.