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Lending a helping hand in war against tobacco through social marketing

Years ago,15-year-old Sasha Batnagar,a student of Delhi Public School,was annoyed by her pals when they smoked in the school toilet.

Written by Jinal Shah | Mumbai |
March 7, 2009 5:21:06 am

Years ago,15-year-old Sasha Batnagar,a student of Delhi Public School,was annoyed by her pals when they smoked in the school toilet. Later,one day she was picked up while writing graffiti protesting against smoking on the toilet walls. The school authorities could have expelled her,but they didn’t do so as she helped others stop smoking habit. She wrote the names of the parents of the children who died after consuming tobacco with a message that prompted others to quit smoking.

Sasha,India’s youth ambassador to the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health’s two-day workshop— Global Youth Meet on Tobacco Control —held in Mumbai on Friday,spoke about her experiences. The conference was attended by young anti-tobacco advocates from across the world.

It is now proved that if sensitised and trained to ‘kick the butt’,youngsters can stand against the tobacco industry that thrives on young population with fancy advertisements. We can counter attack this habit with ‘social marketing’,said Nick Schneider of German cancer research center.

Schneider along with many others initiated ‘Help — for a life without tobacco’ campaign,a successful tobacco control model —comprising four pillars- media,events,young European manifesto and web— adopted by 27 countries of European Union. Help campaign has been broadcast on TV. Since 2005,nearly 70,000 spots have been broadcast addressing three major issues of passive smoking,prevention and cessation.

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“Advertising companies target young people,hence we need to keep a tab on youth. We partnered with MTV who helped create a dedicated TV ad and a mini site “Tobacco,where do you stand?” in 2006 for the purpose of an operation. This aimed at encouraging debate on the issue and help create awareness among the youngsters on the consequences of tobacco use,” said Schneider.

According to Schneider,youngsters can be reached through social marketing like ‘Nicomarket’,which is a fake online store and a viral web action of the Help programme. He said this is an innovative way to spread the anti-tobacco message among youngsters and show smoking is a stupid act.

“Members of Help are travelling across Europe to measure the carbon monoxide levels in youngsters. They will visit youth fairs,sports events and places where youngsters congregate. So far,we managed to measure carbon monoxide level in more than three lakh youngsters,” said Schneider.

In another initiative of Help,200 youngsters from Europe gathered in Brussels in 2006 to finalise a unique document ‘European youth manifesto’. Role of education,need for support at every level and importance of the participation of youngsters in drafting policies— the European manifesto sifts through everything related to tobacco consumption.

Like ‘Help campaign’ in European Union,‘La Red’ in Latin America has been successful in the few years. In Latin America,most of the states are now 100 per cent smoke-free. Schneider added that India can replicate these models to prevent youngsters from getting into smoking habit.

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