New Campaign Launches to Warn Public of Tobacco’s Harms and Reverse Decades of Industry Misinformation

(Dhaka, Bangladesh, and New York, USA) – On World No Tobacco Day, World Lung Foundation and the National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC) launched a nationwide campaign in Bangladesh showing the many harmful illnesses caused by tobacco use, including lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and oral cancers. The television, radio and poster campaign, entitled 'Tobacco is Eating You Alive' is the second major tobacco control campaign from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh, and intends to reverse decades of marketing from the tobacco industry that suggests bidis are safe.


The 30-second spot is airing on top TV and radio stations across the country for 4 weeks. ‘Tobacco is Eating you Alive’ was among the concepts rated most effective by Bangladeshi audiences in a rigorous test of tobacco control messaging conducted by World Lung Foundation in 2009. The concept was originally developed by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and has been used effectively in India, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam, among other countries. (1)

The ‘Tobacco is Eating You Alive’ mass media campaign is supported by the Bangladesh Centre for Communication Programs, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Bangladesh. Additional funding was provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

‘Tobacco is Eating You Alive’ follows the 2011 ‘Sponge’ campaign, which was evaluated and found to be extremely effective. A survey of more than 7,000 adult tobacco users showed that 44% of those who recalled the campaign had attempted to quit, compared with only 10% of smokers who did not recall the campaign.

Md. Humayun Kabir, Health Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said: “Findings from the ‘Sponge’ campaign proved that mass media can be a powerful motivator to increase knowledge of the health harms of tobacco. It can also counter tobacco industry lies that blatantly suggest their products are fresh, fun, and even safe”.

Mr Azam-E-Sadat, Tobacco Control Program Manager, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said, ”We’d like to express our thanks to BTV and Betar which agreed to run the campaign spots as free-to-air public service announcements. With this air time, and with bonus spots secured through private channels, we expect to reach millions with this critical message.”

Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Policy and Communications, World Lung Foundation, commented, "We have an abundance of evidence that shows mass media campaigns that have strong negative messages about health effects, that use personal testimonials or that address the impact of tobacco use on others are effective. (2)(3)(4) We are pleased to be working in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for the launch of this second national tobacco control campaign. We believe it can save lives and ultimately change a culture of acceptance for deadly products”.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of mortality in the world today, and is responsible for more than five million deaths each year – one in ten adults worldwide. Approximately 43% of all adults in Bangladesh use some form of tobacco with about 45% of males and 1.5% of females being smokers. Most popular among the poor and rural populations are hand-rolled ‘bidi’ leaf cigarettes, which account for 75% of the cigarettes sold in Bangladesh.

Mass media campaigns are part of the WHO’s package of MPOWER 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.

(1)The public service announcement can be viewed at:
(2) National Cancer Institute, The role of the media in promoting and reducing tobacco use. Tobacco Control Monograph No. 19. NIH Pub. No. 07-6242, 2008, USDHHS, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute: Bethesda MD.
(3) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs, 2007, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health: Atlanta, GA.
(4) World Health Organization, Smoking cessation media campaigns from around the world: Recommendations from lessons learned, 2001, World Health Organization: Copenhagen.