By Lonjezo Idrissa (Volunteer Ambassador)
Malawi, one of the countries in the Southern Region of Africa, has for a long time being affected with the problem of tobacco smoking. It has been noted that every year, more than 5700 of its people are killed by tobacco-caused disease. Still, more than 5000 children (10 -14 years old) and 707000 adults (15+ years old) continue to use tobacco each day. Despite Malawi making progress on tobacco control in recent years with the help from its government and other health non-governmental organisations like World Health organisation (WHO), still, people continue to die and become sick needlessly, and the costs to society from tobacco use continue to rise like Mount Kilimanjaro. Malawi can still do more to make the proven tobacco control tools work for its citizens’ well-being (https://tobaccoatlas.org/country/malawi/). The continuity of the problem has been due to lack of effective communication and advocacy concerning the dangers of taking in tobacco on people’s lives in Malawian.
There are a number of myths that makes a lot of Malawian to start smoking or continue smoking tobacco namely; for pleasure, to have fun, do like friends, speak easily with unknown people, helps in digestion, creativity and concentration, reduce stress and anxiety, forget problems, and that tobacco is not dangerous for health.
To strongly help to reduce thousands of people dying every year in Malawi, media must be used since it is regarded as a powerful platform for disseminating information to the public. Media genres such as poems, short stories, music, adverts and billboards must be used for dissemination of the information. Since people are unique, that is why different media genres must be used for the message to reach different audience. Segmentation improves the quality of health prevention programs. The main objective of the project must be to inform Malawians about the negative effects of indulging in tobacco smoking and prevention measures against the act. The name of the project can be “Be Smart.” Social marketing theory by Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman can best be used throughout the project. The two defined it as the design, implementation and control programs calculated to influence the acceptability of social ideas and involving considerations of product planning, pricing, communication, distribution and market research. Stanton, (1981) argues that social marketing began when marketing techniques were realized to sell ideas, attitudes and behaviours rather than products and includes the concept of “Edutainment.” The theory borrows five principles of marketing known as five Ps. According to Smith (1993) the five principles of marketing are people, place, product, promotion and price.
Henceforth, the five principles of social marketing will be interconnected in this project intervention. The first principle being the product, the audience will be given information that they should not let tobacco smoking spoil their future. This message will be in songs, poems (in both oral and written form), and short stories, and be included in school clubs that will be created for many people to listen and read it. There can be a slogan ‘tobacco smoking end all dreams’ which will put on the T-shirts and be voiced spoken poetry and the outro of songs that will be produced. The second principle is ‘people.’ All people of different ages, social classes, backgrounds in Malawian society have to receive the message. Place comes as a third principle and with respect to the situation at hand, both rural and urban areas of Malawi are the appropriate places to sell the product (message).
The fourth principle is the price. It is very hard to reach the target audience for various reasons. Most people who indulge in tobacco smoking don’t attend most of events since they spend most of the time in search of marijuana from their sellers. Another price entity is that most of the tobacco seller will lose a lot of customers since people will quit the use of tobacco. The other price factor that can be considered is the loss of close association since most of those that engage in tobacco smoking will separate themselves from their peers.
The final principle is promotion. Information will be disseminated through various channels to fight against the behaviour of excessive tobacco smoking. The information will be about the effects of smoking tobacco which includes; liver and lung cancer, impotency, disorientation, alter physical appearances and others. It will also be supported with solutions and prevention measures of the problems towards tobacco smoking. Popular musicians in Malawi will be also asked to produce songs in vernacular Chichewa language and English that carries information against tobacco smoking. Specialist in poetry can unite to produce many poetry that will carry messages about the negativism of tobacco smoking. Again, poetry competition on the issue of tobacco smoking shall be introduced around Malawi where grand prizes shall be disseminated to the winners. Social Media platforms will be used, especially Facebook and WhatsApp which are mostly used by Malawians living in both rural and urban areas. For this a facebook page, and WhatsApp groups shall be created to ensure that information is spread across Malawi. Radio Adverts on the danger of tobacco smoking shall be implemented to enable people who use radios in rural areas to be aware. Lastly, Billboards and posters will also be put up and posted in public places, carrying information that is designed to influence the audience to change.
The evaluation process of the project will take place after the implementation. It will involve the collection of records to ascertain the number and frequency of prescriptions given out over a time frame of two years in relation to the time taken by the awareness project. If the trial phase is successful. In this case, there will be a research conducted to find out how many people have quit the act of tobacco smoking and the extent to which they are minimizing such act. The other vital aspect to consider is the rate at which people are willing to change.
Kotler, P and Zaltman, G. (1975). Social Marketing: an implication for Contemporary Marketing Practices Classifications Scheme. 23. 135-141
Smith, W. (1993). The Role of Social Marketing in Mass Education. Academy for Educational Development. Washington DC
Stanton, W. J. (1981). Fundamentals of Marketing. Japan: McGraw-Hills.