Senegal has launched its first national mass media campaign about the harms of tobacco. Developed by the Ministry of Health and Social Action and World Lung Foundation, the campaign graphically depicts the tar that collects inside an average smoker’s lungs. It is hoped that the campaign will empower citizens with new knowledge, and also spur advocacy and government policies to protect citizens from tobacco.
Called ‘Sponge,’ the campaign will air on TV, radio, outdoor venues and SMS for eight weeks. It was tested rigorously in Senegal, and is based on campaigns previously aired in Australia, China, India, Mauritius, Russia, the United States, and several other countries. Currently, three percent of all male deaths in Senegal can be attributed to tobacco use; a number set to skyrocket as the tobacco industry increases its efforts to addict more people to its products.
Across Africa, tobacco industry activity is booming. Women in Africa, who have a relatively low smoking prevalence compared to other regions of the world and are therefore seen as a growth market, are aggressively targeted by the industry. Initiation among young people is also a concern; according to The Tobacco Atlas, almost 20% of youth in Senegal report having an item with a tobacco logo on it, with even higher percentages in Chad (30%), Niger (30%) and Mauritania (28%). This data suggest young people are being subjected to aggressive marketing to addict a new generation of users.
The campaign television ad (in French) can be viewed from the World Lung Foundation website.