Victim testimonials, like those shown under the Tobacco-free Film Rule,have a significant impact in changing attitudes to tobacco
An analysis of the impactof tobacco victim testimonials, primarily in India, has found that they have a marked effect on attitudes to tobacco use and support for tobacco control policies and help to encourage behaviour change.This evidence underlines the importance of such testimonials, currently shown in cinemas under the “Film Rule”, and in national and state anti-tobacco mass media campaigns. The study, “Raw and real: an innovative communication approach to smokeless tobacco control messaging in low and middle-income countries” was published in leading peer-review journal, “Tobacco Control.”
Five such testimonials- developed in a pared-back, documentary-style format and featuring culturally relevant tobacco victims like Mukesh and Sunita – have featured in anti-tobacco campaignsin India. The study notes that “Mukesh” had a recall rate of over 80 percent. It helped to support a ban on Gutka, and the adoption of or increases in tobacco taxes on smokeless tobacco products across 17 of 35 States and Territories, many for the first time. More recently, the youth and family responsibilities of “Sunita” resonated powerfully across India, drawing attention to the problem of smokeless tobacco use among young women. It also helped to support the adoption of large graphic warnings on tobacco packaging.
Co-author of the paper Dr.Murukutla, Director of Policy and Global Research and Country Director, India, Vital Strategies, said: “We acknowledge State governments and our National government for agreeing to run these hard-hitting campaigns in recent years, to improve public health. Our study shows thatlegislators can be reassured that this approach delivers results while also proving highly cost effective, especially when compared with the burden of tobacco. Tobacco-related disease costs the Indian economy more than 1.4 trillion rupees and kills nearly a million citizens every year.
“We also recognize the bravery of the victims and their families. Thetestimonials play a vital role in giving a voice to some of the millions of otherwise voiceless victims of a rich and powerful tobacco industry. Victims feel empowered by the fact that they are helping to ensure that others don’t share their fate. And tobacco users say they find the voices and stories of real tobacco victims highly effective in helping them to truly appreciate tobacco’s harm.
“We strongly encourage India’s National and State governments to continue broadcasting tobacco victim testimonials and further assume the “Raw and Real” health communicationapproach could prove equally successful in addressing other preventable causes of disease and premature death in India,” concluded Dr.Murukutla.
India’s government committed to a number of health-related goals under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, like reducing preventable disease, disability and death from non-communicable diseases, fully implementing the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and improving child and maternal health, environmental health and road safety, among others. A comprehensive program of policies, including campaigns to improve knowledge and change attitudes, will be needed to deliver progress in each area.
Vital Strategies’ “Raw and Real” approach
This is a pared-down, documentary-style approach to communicating the harms of tobacco. It features harrowing images of tobacco-related disease, withreal tobacco victims, their doctors and their families, relating their own experiences and emotions. Victims are featured in hospital or at home. These campaigns and many others are available to view atwww.vitalstrategies.org/resource-center
Research has shown that mass media campaigns are among the most effective means to encourage people to stop using tobacco. Hard-hitting campaigns and images 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. They are featured in 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 Vital Strategies is a principal partner.
Vital Strategies, formerly World Lung Foundation, has leveraged its expertise in tobacco control and lung health to help governments address a wider range of public health challenges, including obesity prevention, road safety, environmental health and maternal health. In addition, Vital Strategies is part of a global initiative to help governments more effectively collect and use civil registration and health data. The new Vital Strategies brand more accurately reflects the organization’s broader scope.
Note to Editors
Tobacco use in India
According to The Tobacco Atlas, 23.2 percent of adult males, 3.2 percent of adult females, 5.8 percent of boys and 2.4 percent of girls smoke tobacco in India. Smokeless tobacco use is even more popular, especially among lower socio-economic groups and women. More than a quarter (26 percent) of adults use smokeless tobacco.Tobacco is the cause of 14.3 percent of male deaths and 4.7 percent of female deaths in India, killing over 981,100 Indian citizens every year. A University of York-led study found that 74 percent of global deaths related to smokeless tobacco occur in India. According to The Tobacco Atlas, the regulation of smokeless tobacco products should be tightly integrated into tobacco control policies and specific communication strategies effected to change cultural beliefs and historic perceptions around smokeless tobacco.
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