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Mass Media Counter Marketing Boosted with New Anti-Tobacco Campaigns and Tools

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

(New York, USA) ––On World No Tobacco Day, World Lung Foundation (WLF) announced it has provided technical and financial assistance for new mass media and social media campaigns and new campaign tools that will help warn billions of people about the dangers of tobacco use.

New campaigns in Bangladesh, China, Mexico and Vietnam and the launch of a new online video in India mean that clear, hard-hitting messages about the harms of tobacco could reach more than two billion people. A new database of license-free materials for Russia will reduce the time and money needed to develop mass media campaigns that are rooted in scientific evidence for their effectiveness.

Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Policy & Communications, World Lung Foundation, commented: “There is real momentum in the number of countries using counter-marketing to warn people about the dangers of tobacco. Governments are seeing value in their investments, particularly in generating support for tobacco control policies and prompting quit attempts.

“The new mass media database in Russia provides regional health ministries with access to proven anti-tobacco content that they can use themselves. Our objective is to help countries become self-sufficient in the use of counter-marketing strategies. The sooner governments start using these tools, the more lives will be saved.”

A significant body of scientific evidence shows hard-hitting campaigns can compel tobacco users to quit, increase knowledge of the health risks of tobacco use, and promote behavior change in both smokers and non-smokers. WLF advises governments and health agencies on campaign planning, ad selection and licensing, and provides technical and financial assistance in media campaign planning in order to deliver the most effective results. Countries deploying best-practice campaigns, with assistance from WLF, include:


WLF provided technical and financial support to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for a new national mass media campaign to warn people about the harms of second-hand smoke and to support compliance with and enforcement of Bangladesh’s national smoke-free law. The campaign, called Smoke, launched today and will be on-air for one month. A community partner will also disseminate thousands posters to health centers nationwide, to synergize with the broadcast schedule.

WLF provided technical and financial assistance to the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPCC), which has launched a national advertising campaign based on an ad called Secondhand Smoke Invisible Killer – Office. SHS Invisible Killer – Office was developed from an original ad concept from the United Kingdom and depicts how secondhand smoke affects smokers and non-smokers in a typical office environment. The ad aims to build support for a national smoke-free legislation initiative led by NHFPCC.

The campaign’s integrated media strategy includes TV, earned media and social media activities including a mini-site, where the public can register support for smoke-free environments; a Weibo micro-blog; and video-sharing. In addition, WLF is providing technical and financial assistance to run the SHS Invisible Killer – Office campaign to support Harbin’s and Shenzhen’s 100% smoke free laws and is providing technical assistance to help roll out the campaign in Yunnan province, Jiangsu province, Tianjin, Lanzhou, Qingdao, Ningbo, Changchun and Zhuhai.


In India, WLF developed a new three-minute video, The Price We Pay, using real life stories of tobacco-related suffering and death seen in Tata Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Ward and information about the financial impact of tobacco use on families. The film features interviews with several patients and their families speaking about the devastating poverty that can be inflicted on a family when the main bread winner gets sick or dies from tobacco-related disease. Among the costs incurred are enormous hospital and treatment expenses loss of income and the loss of economic prospects for the next generation. The film makes a case for implementing strong tobacco control policies such as hard-hitting graphic health warnings and higher tobacco taxes. Produced in collaboration with HEALIS and support from Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, the film will be widely used for World No Tobacco Day events and will also be disseminated online.


In the State of Jalisco, Mexico, WLF and the University of Guadalajara, Jalisco have partnered to launch a mass media campaign, developed from an original Australian ad concept called Artery. Artery graphically shows that smoking makes the artery walls sticky and collect dangerous deposits, even in comparatively young smokers. The key message is that every cigarette damages heart health.

In addition, the State of Tabasco will air an adapted version of the New York City ad Cigarettes Are Eating You Alive, which emphasizes the health harms of tobacco use to the smoker. The key message is that smoking causes damage to nearly every organ and tissue of the body. Both campaigns will be launched today, World No Tobacco Day, and will run in the States of Jalisco and Tabasco to warn smokers and non-smokers about the dangers of tobacco use and help support the implementation of 100% smoke-free laws.


WLF has provided technical assistance to help the Health Ministry build a database of best-practice advertisements and other marketing collateral in the Russian language. The materials have been proven to be effective and will be available to every Russian province and state for use in national and regional anti-tobacco campaigns. Russia recently passed a Federal Tobacco Control Law and a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants will come into effect on June 1st, 2014. To support compliance with and enforcement of the new smoke-free law, several Russian regions are launching mass media campaigns to inform people about the dangers of second hand smoke and the new smoke-free law. The Invisible killer and SF: it's law ads will air on TV, supported by billboard ads and posters across the country.


To support compliance with Vietnam’s new smoke-free legislation, the Ministry of Health of Vietnam (MoH), the Vietnam Steering Committee on Smoking and Health (VINACOSH), and the Central Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, with support from WLF, announced the winners of a national “For a smoke-free life” competition on social media. The competition was launched to find the best graphics, photos and videos that illustrate the benefits of a smoke-free Vietnam, demonstrate ways of supporting compliance with Vietnam’s new smoke-free regulations, and exhibit public support for this smoke-free law. Entries were judged by representatives from MoH, the Youth Union, WLF, and the advertising industry, and by public vote on Facebook.

WLF also provided technical and financial assistance to MoH on a national mass media campaign that further supports implementation of the smoke-free law and reinforces new graphic pack warnings in Vietnam. Launched in March and airing until the end of May, the campaign features adapted versions of New York City’s Alive and Baby Alive TV ads, incorporating the graphic health images from the new pack warnings.

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.