Interactive billboard to detect smokers, warn them of its harms

Launched to coincide with World No Tobacco Day, “This is what you are doing to your heart right now” digital billboard installed in Gurugram shows what happens inside the body of a smoker when they smoke


Gurugram: An innovative anti-smoking digital billboard campaign has been was launched by Vital Strategies at the popular DLF Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, India. For the next four weeks, the billboard will detect a smoker lighting a cigarette or bidi in front of the it and respond by launching a short video. The video shows the real-time effects of tobacco smoke on the heart and lungs of the smoker and people nearby, who are exposed to secondhand smoke.

The campaign’s central theme is #UndoTheDamage and the billboard is placed strategically at a location commonly frequented by smokers visiting Cyber Hub. When a smoker lights their cigarette in front of the digital billboard, it will display the message “This is what you are doing to your heart right now”. A video is triggered that shows the effects of smoking on the heart and is accompanied by wheezing sounds. At the end of the video, the screen shows the national quit line number 1800-11-2356, for smokers who want assistance to quit.

Dr Nandita Murukutla, Vice President, Global Policy and Research, Vital Strategies, commented “Heart disease and stroke are India’s biggest killers, and tobacco use is a leading risk factor for those conditions. We are excited to launch India’s first interactive digital billboard campaign to deliver that importance message and promote smoking cessation. This innovative medium graphically shows smokers the real-time harm they’re experiencing. We believe this will encourage smokers to quit, and will help in protecting the heart health of non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke, especially children.”

#UndoTheDamage will be further amplified through social media. Online audiences will be asked to spread information about the health harms of smoking and exposure to second hand smoke. Non-smokers are encouraged to share their experience of being with a smoker and urge them to quit smoking. And people who have quit smoking are encouraged to share their success stories using the hashtag #WinnersQuitHere.

The campaign is aligned with the theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day, which is the impact of tobacco on cardiovascular health. Even one cigarette a day increases the risk of heart disease and stroke to half that of a heavy smoker. Globally, around 63% of deaths related to secondhand smoke are caused by heart disease in adults exposed to tobacco smoke.

According to the Tobacco Atlas, over 103 million adults (aged 15+) in India use tobacco each day, increasing their risk of heart disease and stroke. Every year, more than 9 lakh people die from diseases caused by tobacco. It causes nearly 13% of male deaths and just over 5% of female deaths in India. The economic cost of smoking in India amounts to Rs. 1,81,869 crores.