With one million people dying of tobacco-related diseases every year in India, a new study has shown that short testimonials by patients of such diseases giving their real-life stories screened on TV or in theatres, are highly effective in delivering anti-tobacco messages.
"An analysis of the impact of tobacco victim testimonials, primarily in India, has found that they have a marked effect on attitudes to tobacco use and support for tobacco control policies and help to encourage behaviour change.
"This evidence underlines the importance of such testimonials, currently shown in cinemas under the 'film rule' and in national and state anti-tobacco mass media campaigns," it said.
The study -- "Raw and Real: an innovative communication approach to smokeless tobacco control messaging in low and middle-income countries" was published in leading peer-review journal 'Tobacco Control'.
"Our study shows that legislators can be reassured that this approach delivers results while also proving highly cost- effective, especially when compared with the burden of tobacco. Tobacco-related diseases cost the Indian economy more than 1.4 trillion rupees and kills nearly a million citizens every year.
"The testimonials play a vital role in giving a voice to some of the millions of otherwise voiceless victims of a rich and powerful tobacco industry. Victims feel empowered by the fact that they are helping to ensure that others don't share their fate.
"And tobacco users say they find the voices and stories of real tobacco victims highly effective in helping them to truly appreciate tobacco's harm," said co-author of the paper Murukutla, Director of Policy and Global Research and Country Director, India, Vital Strategies.
Five such testimonials -- developed in a pared-back, documentary-style format and featuring culturally relevant tobacco victims -- Mukesh and Sunita -- have featured in anti-tobacco campaigns in India.
"We strongly encourage India's national and state governments to continue broadcasting tobacco victim testimonials and further assume the 'Raw and Real' health communication approach could prove equally successful in addressing other preventable causes of disease and premature death in India," said Murukutla.
Elaborating about the 'Raw and Real' approach, the study said that this is a pared-down, documentary-style approach to communicating the harms of tobacco and features harrowing images of tobacco-related disease, with real tobacco victims, their doctors and their families, relating their own experiences and emotions.
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