New Delhi: Health Ministry on Thusday launched anti-tobacco public advertisements and posters featuring former Indian skipper Rahul Dravid with an aim to encourage millions of young tobacco users to refrain from the deadly habit.
Although Dravid was not present during the launch, health officials said the celebrity cricketer has already endorsed this and would be present during a bigger programme which the Ministry plans to organise next month.
"The association of Rahul Dravid with this cause will inspire the youth of the country to stay away from tobacco products," Health Secretary B P Sharma said after launching the Public Service Advertisement (PSA).
He said the growing number of youths and women consuming tobacco in some form is a cause of grave concern, and the anti-tobacco campaigns need to target them.
Dravid in the advertisement is seen giving the message that urges youths to stand as a "wall" against tobacco and cricket imagery has been used to put forth the message. The theme would be "No More tobacco - 21st century", he said.
"Last year it was decided that we need a brand ambassador to push our campaign further. We decided Rahul Dravid should be our brand ambassador. He is not physically present but next month we will have a bigger event with him," Sharma said.
"He has endorsed the campaign through this PSA. This is targeted at the youths of the country. He is a youth icon. So we thought of using his voice to bring youth out of tobacco," said C K Mishra, Additional Secretary and Mission Director (NHM).
The audio and visual advertisements which have been created both in Hindi and English along with the posters will be used to create awareness regarding the harmful effects of tobacco use through television, radio, at schools, community spaces, railway compartments, and social media.
According to the report of tobacco control in India (2004), nearly 8-9 lakh people die every year due to diseases related to tobacco use.
"About 50 per cent of all cancers in men and 25 per cent of all cancers in women can be attributed to tobacco use. It is estimated that about 90 per cent of all the oral cancers are caused due to smokeless tobacco use," health Ministry officials said.
The PSAs have been prepared by the Health Ministry World Health Organisation, India in collaboration with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and HRIDAY.
"The anti-tobacco campaign featuring Rahul Dravid is an effort by the Health Ministry to reach out to millions of young and potential tobacco users to encourage them to refrain from the deadly habit of tobacco use," the Health Ministry officials said.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey?India (GATS) conducted by the Health Ministry shows that 35 per cent of the adults in the age group of 15 years and above consume tobacco in some form or the other.
Smokeless tobacco is the most-prevalent form of tobacco use in India within the lower socio-economic groups and women. GATS found that more than 20 crore Indians use smokeless tobacco.
"The actual data in terms of evaluated study will be available after the GATS survey which is starting this year. It will be conducted throughout the country. Towards the end of 2016, we will know what actual impact our campaign for the last five six years has had," Mishra said.
He said the Health Ministry will "redo" its media plans. Apart from going to NGOs, putting posters in railways and social media, we will go into newspapers, television, radios. Every year we have a media campaign for tobacco related issues. This is the backdrop of all the media campaigns, he said.