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Tamil Nadu Government Launches New Campaign to Protect Citizens from Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

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

(Chennai, India and New York, United States) – The Smokefree Chennai project of the Tamil Nadu Government today launched a new mass media campaign to inform millions of Tamilian smokers about the serious effects tobacco has on their health and the health of their children. The statewide campaign, called “Cigarettes are Eating You Alive,” graphically depicts how smoking damages vital organs of the body and can cause serious health problems, even death, in those exposed to cigarette smoke. The campaign is being supported by World Lung Foundation, which provided technical and financial assistance.

The 30-second ‘Alive’ spot is airing on top TV stations across the state for 4 weeks. It was among the concepts rated most effective by South Indian audiences in a rigorous test of tobacco control messaging conducted by World Lung Foundation in 2009. The concept was originally developed by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene and has been used effectively in Mexico, Russia, Ukraine and the United States, among other countries.

The ‘Alive’ campaign is the second major push by the Directorate of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Chennai, which has supported the Smokefree Chennai campaign since 2009, to educate Tamil audiences on the personal health consequences of smoking. In 2010, the Directorate aired two public service announcements titled: “Dhuaan” and “Child,’ which highlighted the harmful effects of secondhand smoke as well as the need for smokefree public places including business and catering establishments.

“The aim of the Smokefree Chennai project is to protect citizens from exposure to the toxic cancer-causing agents found in second-hand smoke. The campaign should also inform smokers about the personal consequences of their own actions, and the harm they cause others.” said Dr R.T. Porkaipandian, Director, Public Health & Preventive Medicine.

According to the latest Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted in India in 2010, 27% of adults (age 15 and above) are exposed to second-hand smoke at work. Research has shown that social marketing campaigns that use mass media are one of the most effective means to raise awareness, build knowledge and shift behaviours related to tobacco use.

Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Communications, World Lung Foundation said, “Highly visual messages can motivate people to stop smoking. This campaign uses a graphic approach to communicate that smoking kills and secondhand smoke is also deadly, especially to children. We congratulate the Department of Health for running this campaign, and look forward to future efforts to reduce the tobacco epidemic in Tamil Nadu.”