Friday, August 23, 2013

Social Media Meets Tobacco Control


Use of internet tools for facilitating discussions on national issues first became popular after Seun Osewa launched, an online forum that allows registered members to start discussions on any topic and also comment on other ongoing conversation at no charge.

Few years after the word 'Nairalanders' had become a norm among Nigerian youths, another initiative which redefined the meaning of the words 'friend', 'like' and 'wall'  began  making waves among internet users in the country. The initiative, Facebook became a favorite internet site for Nigerians of varying age, culture and social status and not too long after Nigerians had settled down to this new rave, internet users got a free offering of online short messaging through the website- The site which allows users to post instant updates of 140 characters also introduced us to the world of tweets, hashtags, mentions and trends.

With the availability of these aforementioned social media sites and others such as Google+ and 2go, the platform for discussing personal, family, business, community and national issues have now moved away from solely traditional settings like dining tables, local bars, radio and television stations to include internet-based interaction platforms. Coupled with the potential for mass broadcast at fairly low cost, the internet is now well known as an ideal avenue for raising awareness and launching campaigns on social issues and it is based on this that the Tobacco Control Nigeria Project was envisioned and officially launched on August 21, 2013.

Tobacco Control Nigeria is a social media policy change campaign using Social Media to advance tobacco control discussions in Nigeria and support the passage of a comprehensive Tobacco Control (TC) law compliant with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). 

The launch which held in Ikeja, Lagos was all fun and educative. The West Africa Regional Officer for Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Hilda Ochefu gave a goodwill address on the issue of tobacco control and how it relates to public health in Nigeria and Philip Jakpor of Environmental Rights Action informed participants on the diverse efforts by civil society to ensure Nigerians are well informed and safe from the dangers of tobacco use.

The now popular Vocal Slender (one of the scavengers interviewed on the BBC documentary 'Welcome to Lagos') gave a stunning musical performance and the video of a flash mob on Tobacco Control held at Ajegunle, Lagos was shown which got a rousing applause from all present.

Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) facilitated the unveiling of the website - with all its fascinating features such as the competitive game called Tobacco Dodge. The game charges its players with the task of achieving high scores by dodging cigarettes and acquiring hearts within the space of sixty seconds. The game is quite tricky but also engaging as it appeals to gamers both young & old. On completion, players are encouraged to share their scores with others via Twitter or facebook platforms thereby promoting the Tobacco Control cause.

Prizes were given to the winner of the Tobacco Dodge game at the event venue, the first person at the launch to like the project's Facebook page -, the first person to follow on Twitter -, and the first person to send a message to the project's SMS shortcode - 39405.

The giveaways have not ended but will continue online on Facebook, Twitter and the website. Social activism in tobacco control is now fun and we're waiting for you to come on board.

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