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On World No Tobacco Day 2023, Vital Strategies’ Partners Around the World Highlight the Harms of Tobacco Use and Farming

Tobacco will kill as many as 1 billion people this century, making it the greatest single source of preventable death and disease in the world.

Created in 1988 as a global no-smoking day, World No Tobacco Day has grown into a worldwide observance that spotlights the global burden of tobacco and the enormous toll it takes on people’s health, on economies, on health systems and on the environment.

This year, Vital Strategies joined partners around the world to mark the annual observance with strategic campaigns and activities, many of which focused on the 2023 theme: We need food, not tobacco. According to the World Health Organization, 749 million people across 79 countries are facing acute food insecurity. In many of these countries, large areas of fertile land that could be used to grow food are instead dedicated to growing tobacco—a crop that reaps economic disadvantages in addition to poor health, early death and environmental harm.

Vital’s campaigns for World No Tobacco Day addressed a variety of tobacco control issues, from cessation to smoke-free policies to youth uptake of electronic cigarettes. And a key focus, linked to the day’s theme, was tobacco’s impact on farming and farmers. Read on for a roundup of activities.

STOP Reveals How the Tobacco Industry Uses Farmers to Influence Policy

STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdogin which Vital Strategies is a partner,released materials that illustrate how the tobacco industry exploits farmers to influence policy to their advantage. The industry works both behind the scenes and in the public eye to block regulations that would help people reduce, quit or never start using tobacco. The industry also produces misleading figures and statements about the impact of tobacco control legislation on farmers’ jobs, trapping farmers in a cycle of poverty, and creating conditions that perpetuate child labor.

The STOP fact sheet shows not only how tobacco crops take up valuable fertile land that could be used for growing food, but also how the industry damages the environment and makes farmers sick. For example, one in four tobacco farmers experience nicotine poisoning, also known as green tobacco sickness.

Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia Highlight the Harms of Tobacco Farming

Vital Strategies’ teams in Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia partnered with local organizations to highlight the harms of tobacco farming.

In Brazil, ACT Health Promotion and Vital Strategies launched a World No Tobacco Day campaign, “The tobacco industry suffocates the production of healthy foods.” Brazil, the third largest tobacco producer in the world and the largest exporter of tobacco leaves, allocates the same area planted to tobacco for the production of all the country’s vegetables.

In Mexico, Vital Strategies and partners launched a three-week campaign to collect cigarette butts and distribute basic food baskets to people in need. The goal was to collect 15,000 cigarette butts—the number one source of litter globally—recruiting volunteers through social media and community outreach. This action linking smoking to food insecurity was organized by Cultura Verde, and another local partner, Banco de Alimentos, provided food baskets at a significantly reduced price.

In Indonesia, Vital Strategies launched the #FoodOverTobacco campaign, encouraging people to share food moments and recipes, and spend money on healthy food, rather than tobacco products. One component, “Pass the Plate” is an Instagram challenge in which social media followers are encouraged to showcase their meals costing about $3—the average cost of a pack of cigarettes in Indonesia.

Image from the “Pass the Plate” Instagram challenge.

Vital Strategies also conducted a workshop for youth on creating digital campaigns at the 8th Indonesian Conference, Tobacco or Health, engaging young people to post about the harms of tobacco.

Digital Communication Officer Yosef Rabindanata speaks to high school students about creating digital campaigns

Viet Nam and China Focus World No Tobacco Day Campaigns on Youth

The Vietnam Tobacco Control Fund, in partnership with Vital Strategies, launched a nationwide media campaign: “Don’t let e-cigarette smoke cloud our future generation.” The three-month campaign targets parents, youth and policymakers and aims to highlight the harms associated with e-cigarette use, particularly among youth, and to build support for the government to restrict the availability of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products in Vietnam. The campaign videos are being aired on television and in popular cinemas across five large cities, as well as across social media platforms.

The campaign also engages massive civil society organizations—including Vietnam’s Youth Union and Women’s Union. These powerful organizations use their extensive networks to promote messaging about the harms of e-cigarettes and build support for the need to restrict e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products to protect the health of Vietnamese youth.The Youth Union used the occasion to launch a run under the banner: “Vietnamese youth say no to tobacco and e-cigarettes,” with over 300 participants.

In China, a new campaign, “Children,” was released for World No Tobacco Day. A video was developed in partnership with the China Federation of Radio and Television Associations to promote better understanding of the harms associated with secondhand smoke exposure. By highlighting the impact of tobacco use on children, the campaign encourages smoke-free families and compliance with smoke-free policy in public places. Campaign materials will be disseminated across television, mobile screens and LED screens in buildings and across social media platforms, including Weibo. In addition, Vital collaborated with China Family Newspaper to highlight smoke-free environment policies adopted in the cities of Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangshou, Wuhan and Ningbo.

An image featured within a special publication for World No Tobacco Day in China Family Newspaper highlighting the harms of smoking for young people.

Ukraine Introduces New Graphic Pack Warnings

Vital Strategies’ global tobacco control government partnerships reaped other dividends on World No Tobacco Day. Ukraine introduced new graphic pack warnings and ran a patriotic media campaign, “We Are Not Smoke-Friendly Here,” encouraging Ukrainians to stay healthy for victory.

New Rules in India Regulate Tobacco Use on Streaming Media

India marked World No Tobacco Day by releasing regulations that expands India’s “Film Rule” to Netflix and other streaming media services—requiring them to show health warnings on programs that depict tobacco use. Our team in India also supported the release of a music video, “Aaj Zindagi Jeete Hai.” Produced in collaboration with Bollywood’s music composer duo Salim and Sulaiman Merchant, the music video pushes messaging about the harms of smoking and the importance of quitting.

Tobacco Atlas Releases New Chapters

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day, Vital Strategies and the Tobacconomics team at the University of Illinois Chicago released two new chapters of the 7th edition of The Tobacco Atlas. The atlas compiles and interprets global- and country-level data to build a picture of tobacco use, tobacco control and the tobacco industry’s activities around the world. The new Comorbidities chapter demonstrates how smoking interacts with chronic health conditions—such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or mental illness—and makes sick people sicker. The Illicit Trade chapter  highlights the subterfuge employed by the tobacco industry to dissuade policymakers from enforcing effective tobacco control strategies—such as taxation—with arguments that taxes will increase illicit trade.  

New Website Highlights “United Against Tobacco and COVID” Campaign in Eastern Mediterranean Region

This public service announcement from Jordan, called “Echo,” encourages people to quit using tobacco by showing the health harms.

United Against Tobacco and COVID” partners launched a website highlighting materials from the campaign and information about their effectiveness. The Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network, in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Vital Strategies, implemented this initiative in the Eastern Mediterranean, a region with exceedingly high tobacco use and correspondingly high rates of noncommunicable diseases. The campaign, which focused on cessation, aired in Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Palestine in 2022. Read the campaign brief here. The campaign continues in Jordan and Palestine through the end of 2023 with a focus on. smoke-free policies and enforcement.