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New mass media campaign in Bangladesh shows deadly harm of second-hand smoke

(Dhaka, Bangladesh and New York, USA) – A powerful national mass media campaign that warns people against the deadly harms of second-hand smoke exposure was launched today by Mr. Zahid Malek, MP, State Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The co-funded mass media campaign, entitled “Sickening” and implemented with technical and financial assistance from Vital Strategies, was unveiled by the Health Minister at a lunchtime event at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW).


Sickening” will air on Bangladesh Television (BTV) and all other major national satellite TV channels in Bangladesh for a duration of five (5) weeks, beginning on 26 October 2017. This new campaign aims to encourage smokers to quit and to protect non-smokers around them – especially children – by showing the real health harms of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke on non-smokers who live and work around smokers. Social media content related to the campaign will also run on the “Stop Tobacco Bangladesh” Facebook page and “Stop Tobacco BD” Twitter account.

The 30-second public service announcement (PSA) tells the story of an adolescent boy who developed asthma. The boy is shown being examined by a doctor, while a voice-over describes the doctor’s perspective, explaining how exposure to second-hand smoke may impact and aggravate asthma. The PSA goes on to warn that exposure to second-hand smoke among non-smokers is proven to increase the risk of lung cancer and scientific studies suggest it also increases the risk of tuberculosis. The PSA urges smokers to protect the people around them from the harms of second-hand smoke, concluding: “Smoking around others is sickening! Quit today.”

Vital Strategies’ Head of Country Programs, Mr. Shafiqul Islam, stated: “We are pleased to support the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in implementing this powerful campaign. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, but many people don’t know about this invisible killer. Our research suggests that campaigns like “Sickening” help to change knowledge and behavior related to the health risks of second-hand smoke, increase support for and compliance with smoke-free laws and encourage smokers to avoid smoking around others in the home. Combined with other sensible, proven policy initiatives, including strong enforcement of Bangladesh’s smoke free laws, “Sickening” will have an impact on protecting the health of smokers and non-smokers, and reducing future tobacco use.”

In 2016, Vital Strategies provided technical assistance for a campaign to support the implementation of graphic pictorial warnings on all tobacco packs in Bangladesh and the “Dhoa” (“Smoke”) campaign to encourage compliance with Bangladesh’s smoke-free laws. Pre-test research indicated that 75 percent of tobacco users were more likely to try to quit after seeing the campaign supporting graphic health warnings. Post-campaign research indicates that almost 70 percent of tobacco users recalled the campaign. More than 51 percent of those who recalled the campaign reported making an attempt to quit smoking and 42 percent of smokeless tobacco users also made a quit attempt.

Sickening” is the latest campaign in a series of recent tobacco control activity in Bangladesh. Vital Strategies also supports a Facebook page titled “Stop Tobacco Bangladesh” which has reached over 3 million users and gained more than 26,000 followers since it launched in September. A Twitter account, “Stop Tobacco BD” is also live. Content posted to these social media accounts informs users about the harms of tobacco; supports graphic health warnings on tobacco packs, smoke-free laws, and tobacco taxes; and promotes alternative livelihoods for tobacco farmers.

Notes to Editors

Tobacco’s deadly cost to Bangladesh

According to The Tobacco Atlas, tobacco is the cause of 14.6 percent of adult male deaths and 5.7 percent of adult female deaths in Bangladesh – more than the average in other low-income countries. Tobacco-related disease – including lung cancer and stroke – kills an estimated 92,100 Bangladeshis every year, while another 382,000 suffer from chronic illnesses caused by tobacco. More than 164,000 children and more than 25 million adults continue to use tobacco each day. According to the Global Burden of Disease Report, there was a 35 percent increase in tobacco-related death and disability between 2005 and 2016.

The Tobacco Atlas also details the proven health harms of exposure to second-hand smoke. Smoking is prohibited in the majority of indoor public places and workplaces, with exceptions for designated smoking zones in some public spaces like public transport with two or more rooms. Children’s parks, fairs, and places where people queue for public transport are also smoke-free. Comprehensive tobacco control policies, covering all forms of tobacco use, would reduce the death toll from tobacco, which otherwise would grow with each passing year. It will also help to ensure that the tobacco industry cannot run roughshod over the lives of the people of Bangladesh. We encourage tobacco control advocates to reach out to other development communities to strengthen their efforts in this mortal fight.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or