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Believe It: Tobacco Kills, says new national campaign on the dangers of smokeless tobacco

Campaign broadcast coincides with global tobacco control meeting, being held in Delhi from November 7th-12th

Bangalore, November 04, 2016 – Global health experts Vital Strategies today congratulated the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, on the launch of a powerful national tobacco control mass media campaign. “I Don’t Believe” warns people about the deadly harms of using smokeless tobacco, which is used by tens of millions of Indians every day, and specifically targets people who believe tobacco industry misinformation that says tobacco use isn’t linked to illness and death. The launch of the campaign coincides with Diwali, and the lead up to a major meeting of governmental representatives and tobacco control advocates from around the world – the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) - being held in Delhi from November 7th to 12th

Believe It: Tobacco Kills, says new national campaign on the dangers of smokeless tobacco

The campaign is based on a Public Service Announcement (PSA) entitled “I Don’t Believe,”  that shows a smokeless tobacco user telling friends and family that he does not believe that tobacco causes harm. He keeps on using tobacco, until being diagnosed with oral cancer and, ultimately, dying as a result – leaving his mother, wife and daughter stricken by grief. The PSA ends by drawing people’s attention to the graphic health warnings now on smokeless tobacco packs in India, saying “Tobacco kills. Read It. Believe It.”

The campaign is being broadcast on all major government and private television and radio channels, in 17 regional languages for pan-India impact, from today for a period of four (4) weeks. It will also be featured on billboards across the country, starting November 1st, 2016.

 According to Mr C K Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, “Our Government is committed to ensuring healthcare and social safety for all Indians. Tobacco is a menace which only leads to preventable disease and premature death, but we can save lives by persuading current tobacco users to quit and by deterring potential users from starting to use tobacco. Warning people about the dangers of tobacco through campaigns like I Don’t Believe is a key part of our strategy. It is designed to encourage people to pay attention to the graphic health warnings on smokeless tobacco packs and heed the overwhelming body of scientific evidence on tobacco’s harms, so we can reduce the health and economic burden of tobacco use in India. We urge smokeless tobacco users to heed the message of this powerful campaign.”

José Luis Castro, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vital Strategies, commented, “We are delighted to have supported the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in launching this campaign to show the harm smokeless tobacco causes to users and their loved ones. We encourage finance ministers debating the Goods and Services Tax bill to recognize they have a role to play, too. India is facing an increasing burden of non-communicable disease for which tobacco use is a leading risk factor, and an economic burden from tobacco-related disease of more than 1.4 trillion rupees every year. All tobacco products cause preventable disease and premature death. By increasing the price of all tobacco products through higher taxes, India can reduce tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations, such as youth, pregnant women, and low-income smokers. This would help to save lives, reduce the unsustainable economic burden of tobacco related disease, and accelerate India’s progress towards its commitments under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Tobacco use in India – a growing health and economic problem

India has the second largest number of tobacco users in the world, with 275 million people or 35 percent of all adults using tobacco in any form. According to The Tobacco Atlas, nearly a quarter (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 - one of the highest levels of prevalence in the world. In total, more than 2,542,000 children and more than 120,000,000 adults in India use tobacco each day. As the use of all forms of tobacco has increased, so has tobacco-related disease and premature death. 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 study led by The University of York 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. In addition, specific communication strategies must be effected to change cultural beliefs and historic perceptions around smokeless tobacco. High tobacco prices and taxes are the single most effective means of reducing tobacco use, so a uniformly high GST regime for all tobacco products would act as an effective deterrent to tobacco consumption.

Research has shown that mass media campaigns and graphic health warnings on tobacco packs are one of the most effective means to prompt people to stop smoking. They are one of the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. M-P-O-W-E-R strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, of which Vital Strategies is a principal partner.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies envisions a world where every person is protected by a strong public health system.  Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change.  Vital Strategies is an affiliate of The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union). 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