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  • Irina Morozova, who works for World Lung Foundation as a Communications Officer, was on hand when the Moscow Duma launched the "Sponge" mass media campaign, which uses an ad that graphically warns about the dangers of smoking.

    The press launch of the campaign took place in the Moscow Duma's biggest press room, which gives you a sense of the importance of the event. The room was filled with TV cameramen and reporters who came for the launch of the first-ever comprehensive mass media campaign to reduce tobacco use, running from Nov 6th through the end of the year across the Moscow Region.

    Ms. Ludmila Stebenkova, head of the Commission on Public Health of the Moscow Duma, presented the campaign. She thanked the media channel that provided free and deeply discounted airtime for anti-tobacco social advertising, as well as the company who manages advertising in the Moscow subway. Subway billboards present a great opportunity to reach people because nine million people ride the subway every day in Moscow.

    The tobacco industry places their billboards in the subway too. They place them near the exits so people want to smoke when they get out of the subway – the ads acts as a trigger, so it's very important to have anti-tobacco ads there instead. Stebenkova ensured that this was just the beginning. The next step is to completely prohibit tobacco industry advertising in the metro, one of the few places tobacco advertising is still allowed in Russia.

    Reporters asked, "Why did the Duma pick such scary images, especially during an economic crisis when people are depressed?" The Duma Committee members had a good answer: They said that the tobacco industry makes smoking look glamorous with advertisng and packages that looking like candies or perfumes and appeal to young girls. They explained that a strong iconic image like those in the ad "Sponge," originally produced by the Cancer Institute New South Wales in Australia, was needed to tell the truth about smoking--that smoking isn't glamorous; it's deadly.

    Russian politicians are currently talking about smoke-free laws. These would prohibit smoking in schools, medical facilities, and eventually in restaurants and bars. The campaign helped to catalyze the smoke-free initiative and provides support for the effort.

    Irina Morozova
    Communications, Russia
    World Lung Foundation

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