Steady progress has been made by Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC) towards the establishment of population-level tobacco control communication programs to combat tobacco use. In this context, Tobacco Control Cell (TCC) of Ministry of NHSRC, with the support of Federal Film Censor Board, Islamabad has launched a pilot advocacy campaign in cinema theatres across Pakistan.
In this campaign, two tobacco control messages “Alive” and “Sponge” have been disseminated to all cinema theatres through Central Film Censor Board Islamabad to air/ broadcast them during their shows regularly.
The 30 second “Sponge” ad graphically depicts how cigarettes smoke causes preventable disease and premature death. The ad compares a smoker’s lungs with a sponge. It graphically shows how a smoker’s lungs soak up the poisons found in tobacco smoke, which collect in the lungs as cancer-causing tar. The amount of tar generated by a pack a day smoker, every year, is enough to fill a beaker. The ad lists the diseases associated with tobacco use and urges smokers to “Quit Today!” It is expected that approximately 3,000 people may watch these anti-tobacco messages daily.
It may be recalled that the Tobacco Control Cell (TCC) of the Ministry and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), has already been working to institutionalise mass media campaigns through their regulatory system. Over the past 12 months, Tobacco Control Cell in coordination with the PEMRA, has distributed two tobacco control mass media campaigns of public service messages to Media networks. An independent media monitoring agency supported by Vital Strategies found that “Sponge” aired over 1,100 times on TV channels in Pakistan. Parallel to this, coverage of tobacco control messages has been expanded through community-based channels including installation of billboards and posters featuring messages in hospital and health centres in Rawalpindi and all provincial capitals across the country.
Tobacco Control Cell of the Ministry has also recently notified new pictorial health warning, 50% of the front and back of all cigarettes packs and outers with a move to enhance and change the warnings to 60% by June, 2019.
Tobacco use is single largest preventable cause of death in the world. In Pakistan, tobacco is a cause of death of around 108,800 persons every year. This is 298 deaths per day. Population-level tobacco control communication programs are helpful in curbing tobacco epidemic and saving lives of people of Pakistan.