In keeping with the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day (#WNTD), which emphasized not only the health, but the environmental implications of the global tobacco epidemic, Vital Strategies’ teams in China, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Türkiye and Viet Nam organized campaigns around the theme, “Poisoning Our Planet: Tobacco Exposed.”
While the health dangers of smoking cigarettes are acknowledged, what may be less well known is that cigarette butts are the world’s most common type of single use plastic pollution. They leak toxic chemicals for up to a decade and harm wildlife, and a single cigarette butt can pollute 50 liters of freshwater. While tobacco companies claim that e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products will help deliver a more sustainable future, they are, in fact, creating a new wave of environmental degradation and pollution. This includes plastic waste, chemicals that leach into the soil, and waste generated from mining for the metals and minerals used in electronic cigarette batteries. “The tobacco industry destroys the environment and hides the damage it causes,” said Jorge Alday, Vital Strategies’ Director of the STOP initiative, a global tobacco industry watchdog.
Vital Strategies is calling for 100% smoke-free public places including beaches, parks, and other natural, historic and cultural destinations. And to further warn of the environmental impacts of tobacco, STOP developed a #BurnedByTobacco campaign to highlight the environmental harms unleashed by the lifecycle of tobacco products. In addition to the campaign webpage, available in English, Portuguese, Bengali and Indonesian, other campaign resources include two briefs on Talking Trash: Behind the Tobacco Industry’s “Green” Public Relations, and The Tobacco Industry and the Environment, as well as a fact sheet for more than 170 countries.
Below are highlights from the campaigns each of the five countries conducted around World No Tobacco Day, May 31, 2022.
In China, the World No Tobacco Day 2022 campaign posters, “Smoke-free environment, for us!” featured six of the most famous cultural relics in Hubei Province, underscoring the need to make cultural destinations smoke-free. Seven cities ran mass media campaigns to strengthen public smoking regulations, especially smoke-free spaces. Campaign public service announcements aired on local television channels, in theaters and at train stations, and accompanying posters appeared across the cities on subways, buses and LED screens.
In collaboration with Bogor City government and Bogor’s health department, a smoke-free picnic festival called #TeuHayangRokok (Say No to Cigarettes) was held in the city’s historic park, Alun-Alun Kota Bogor. At the picnic amemorandum of understanding was signed between the Bogor chapter of Indonesia Hotel and Restaurant Association and the Mayor of Bogor to enforce Bogor’s smoke-free law at more than 600 restaurants across the city. A smoke-free directory website and new smoke-free signage was also launched during the event.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Sonora, Cultura Verde and other organizations, Vital Strategies organized a beach clean-up on May 27 with more than 150 participants across 10 beaches in the state of Sonora; more than 50,000 cigarette butts were collected. During the event, Vital Strategies and Cultura Verde urgently called for smoke-free beaches. On World No Tobacco Day, President López Obrador signed a draft decree to prohibit smoking on beaches and in parks and stadiums.
To amplify the message that tobacco is a serious threat to the environment, the Philippines’ Department of Health, in collaboration with Vital Strategies and Smokefree Philippines, launched a campaign to promote smoke-free environments through beach clean-ups and social media parties to highlight the need for comprehensive smoke-free policies. The eight-month campaign is a collaboration with SmokeFree Aklan, Action on Smoking and Health, and the World Health Organization’s Philippines Country Office.
On World No Tobacco Day, Vital Strategies organized the Youth Initiative Against the Tobacco Industry event with a special guest, President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The president reiterated his commitment to keeping e-cigarettes out of Turkish markets and made a promise to increase the national tobacco tax again this year. This event, which emphasized that strong political leadership is crucial in the fight against the tobacco industry lobby, was broadcast live on 10 mainstream television channels and covered by 28 national print and digital newspapers, which generated 1,000 media stories.
The Vietnamese Youth Union launched a campaign calling for smoke-free beaches, both to protect the environment and to support the country’s tobacco control regulations. Vital Strategies provided technical support to the kickoff event, Running for Smoke-free Beaches. Nearly 400 people participated in the run, which was organized by the Vietnam Youth Union and the governmental Vietnam Tobacco Control Fund, in Mui Ne, Binh Thuan province.
In addition to these campaigns linking tobacco with environmental degradation, three other Vital country teams promoted their own World No Tobacco Day campaigns to promote the perils of secondhand smoke, anti-tobacco clubs, and smoke-free public spaces. Highlights from India, Pakistan and Ukraine include:
Mumbai, India Launches Interactive Billboard Campaign
In Mumbai, QR code-enabled billboards were deployed in and around public areas over the course of a month to engage the public, especially young people, with messages about secondhand smoke exposure and its deadly health impact. Each of the billboards illustrated the perils of secondhand smoke, and the billboards were covered with images of tobacco smoke from cigarettes and bidis.
Pakistan Launches Anti-Tobacco Club
For World No Tobacco Day, Vital Strategies shared the stage with the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, former Speaker of the National Assembly, and current Leader of the Senate’s Pakistan People’s Party on the launch of the Anti-Tobacco Club held at the National Library of Pakistan. The goal of the club is to encourage university students to engage in discourse on tobacco control and to educate them on the importance of raising tobacco taxes.
Ukraine Highlights Implementation of New, National Smoke-Free Law
Despite the war, Ukraine’s National Public Health Center and the nonprofit organization Life Advocacy Centerlaunched a new tobacco control campaign with Vital’s support to help promote a 2021 law that prohibits smoking in public places. The video, “We Are Not Smoke Friendly Here,” features Dr. Anton Shkiryak, whoexplains the law’s public health benefits.
About Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control: Vital Strategies works in more than 40 countries to support the adoption of proven policies to reduce tobacco use. Our global team of experts use policy advocacy and strategic communication to help governments adopt lifesaving, public health “best buys,” such as comprehensive smoke-free laws and high tobacco taxes. Our evidence-based strategic communication campaigns have been seen by more than 2 billion people around the world. Vital Strategies is a main partner in the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use and a partner in the global tobacco industry watchdog, Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP).