The campaign shows that passive smoking causes asthma, ear infections, pneumonia, low birth weight and even SIDS among babies and children
World Lung Foundation (WLF) congratulated the government of Maharashtra on a new mass media campaign which warns people about the deadly effects of secondhand smoke (SHS) on children. The campaign, ‘Tobacco Is Eating Your Baby Alive,’ uses graphic imagery to highlight that exposure to tobacco smoke can cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), crippling asthma, painful ear infection, pneumonia and low birth weight among newborns. The campaign has been adapted especially for Maharashtra in Marathi language and was developed with technical and financial support from WLF. WLF has also launched a social media campaign to support the messages in the mass media campaign.
The 30-second public service announcement (PSA) is being broadcast on all major TV and radio channels across the state until late December. It describes how smoking around children causes them to be exposed to the thousands of poisonous chemicals in SHS, like cyanide and carbon monoxide, that cause serious health problems. The PSA urges cigarette and bidi smokers to quit smoking to protect themselves and their loved ones from the harms of tobacco. A research study found that ‘Tobacco Is Eating Your Baby Alive‘ was highly effective in changing attitudes about the harms of SHS and increasing intention to quit among Indian audiences.
To accompany the campaign, WLF has launched a social media campaign on Facebook and Instagram to support the state government’s objective of informing the public about the harmful effects of SHS, especially on children.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), over 12 percent of adult males in Maharashtra smoke tobacco and many children and young people in the state are exposed to secondhand smoke. The government of Maharashtra has stated its serious intent to reduce tobacco-related harm among its citizens and has introduced a number of initiatives over the last year to reduce tobacco use. The “Tobacco is Eating Your Baby Alive” campaign supports these initiatives by specifically focusing on the menace of passive smoking to the smoker’s nearest and dearest – including unborn children – To encourage smokers to quit.
Dr Nandita Murukutla, WLF’s Country Director, India and Director (Global), Research and Evaluation, Policy, Advocacy and Communication said, “This campaign will play a vital role in warning the citizens of Maharashtra about the terrible harms of secondhand smoke (SHS) to children. Global research shows that at least 40 percent of children are regularly exposed to SHS at home, and 50 percent of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke in public places. According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (India), at least 21 percent of children aged 13-15 years old report being exposed to SHS at home, and at least 36 percent are exposed to SHS outside the home. These figures showcase the seriousness of the issue at hand; people who smoke, whether at home or in public, are putting the lives of children in danger. We are delighted to have supported the government of Maharashtra in raising awareness of this important issue, protecting the health of children and encouraging smokers to quit.
“We also recognise the state government for implementing a series of policies designed to curb tobacco use in Maharashtra, such as the proposed ban on the sale of loose cigarettes. A health department report found that loose cigarettes are used by 70 percent of smokers in the state. Those exclusively using loose cigarettes may never see a warning label about the harms of their habit, and so will be less likely to quit. The relative affordability and lack of warnings also encourages smoking initiation among youth. We encourage the state government to issue notifications for the urgent implementation of the proposed ban. Enforcing this ban has the potential to discourage youth from smoking and encourage many current smokers to quit – further reducing the burden of ill health and premature death caused by tobacco use and exposure to SHS in Maharashtra,” added Dr Murukutla.
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi of Tata Memorial Hospital concluded, “We should be consistent in delivering blunt warnings about the harms of exposure to secondhand smoke. Hard hitting ads such as “Tobacco is Eating Your Baby Alive” are essential to rebut tobacco industry misinformation and to keep reminding people that they urgently need to quit smoking and to stop exposing others to secondhand smoke. As a cancer surgeon who sees many cases of tobacco-related cancer, even among young parents, I am delighted that people in Maharashtra are being exposed to such a significant health message.”