Tobacco use is the leading preventable killer in the world, and in India it is responsible for around 1 million deaths annually. To reduce the burden of tobacco use, today the state health department of Karnataka launched a statewide tobacco control campaign to warn against the deadly harms of using tobacco and motivate users to quit. This campaign was developed with technical support from Vital Strategies, a global public health organization.
The campaign includes two evidence based, hard-hitting public service announcements (PSAs) designed to depict the grim reality of tobacco’s link to cancers and heart disease and encourage tobacco users to call the national tobacco Quitline for help.
Dr. Arundhathi Chandrashekar IAS, Mission Director, National Health Mission, Government of Karnataka, said “We are committed to reducing the menace of tobacco in the state of Karnataka and progress is being made. According to the latest Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2), overall tobacco use in Karnataka has declined by 5.4% and the average age for tobacco initiation has increased. We are working towards strengthening tobacco control efforts in the state by ramping up activities related to smoke- free areas, decreasing youth exposure to tobacco and ensuring compliance with the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act. The mass media campaign is a critical step forward in conveying the harms of tobacco use and discouraging people from consuming tobacco in every form.”
The PSA ‘I Don’t Believe’ is an awareness campaign that depicts how smokeless tobacco users are more prone to a heightened risk of cancer compared to nonusers. ‘When You Quit’ warns against the deadly effects of smoking cigarettes and bidis, particularly the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and it shows smokers the gradual health benefits they’ll experience from quitting over time. Both PSAs encourage people to quit tobacco and comply with bans on public tobacco use and spitting enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Mass media campaigns that highlight tobacco’s deadly harms promote healthy behaviors, prompt attempts to quit, prevent youth initiation and create a supportive environment for policy change,’ said Vaishakhi Mallik, Associate Director, South Asia at Vital Strategies. ‘We commend the government of Karnataka on the launch of the mass media and a digital media campaign to encourage behavior change among current and potential tobacco users. Paired with stronger smoke-free laws, comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising and higher tobacco taxes, public education campaigns are a critical tactic to ending the tobacco epidemic.”
Research has shown that media campaigns are one of the most effective means to build support for tobacco control policies and encourage behavior change to help people stop smoking. It is one of the World Health Organization’s MPOWER (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption