Using social media in the fight against tobacco

Tobacco Free Jordan (Laliltadkheen) is a non-profit organization that was established in 2011 with the goal of lobbying for the enforcement of tobacco control legislation in Jordan as well as raising awareness about the harm of tobacco among children, specifically. The organization’s Facebook page was created in the same year with the same goals, as well as highlighting the organization’s news and activities.

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The Arabic phrase, “Laliltadkheen”, translates into “No to Smoking” and is a very powerful and rather optimistic message in a country that has more than 10 tobacco manufacturing companies. One of the NPO page’s earliest tasks was to protest the decrease in tobacco prices which took effect in 2012. The Facebook page highlighted photographs of a protest held by women and children in front of the Jordanian House of Parliament and received a substantial amount of media attention as a result.

Up until June of 2014, the page was growing slowly but consistently and had reached a significant 30,000 fans. However, we, as the page administrators felt that the page had the potential to influence more lives and decided to change our approach; we started posting (anonymously) the private messages of page fans who were either sharing stories on how they quit smoking or asking for help.

Contributions started pouring in by the hundreds from all over the Arab world. Suddenly, page followers were eager to share their story or ask for help. The page was growing at such an overwhelming rate that within a few months it surpassed 500,000 followers, becoming one of the largest anti-smoking pages, if not the largest, on Facebook!

At present, the page has 675,000 loyal fans who believe in it. We believe that the monumental success of the page came from a simple reason: its honesty. It also lends a platform to its followers to voice their opinions and share their experiences with the thousands suffering from nicotine addiction, most of them having become victims of the tobacco industry as early as the age of 10 or 12.

We, the founding members of the organization, believe profoundly in the importance of social media to aid our cause; by both spreading awareness and encouraging tobacco cessation.

We believe that social media is underused in the fight against tobacco, but it can be very powerful tool, especially when targeting the youth. It is readily available and there is no added cost. Teenagers and young adults in particular feel more comfortable sharing their views, problems and feelings through the anonymity of the web, rather than having to face someone. Also, bear in mind that many of them smoke without their parents’ knowledge and that getting clinical help might be impossible.

Because of our social media role in fighting tobacco and inspiring so many, on 22 Sept. we were invited to attend the Social Good Summit organized by United Nations Jordan. The Summit focused on the impact of the digital landscape and the use of social media and technology for good which lays the foundations for global change. It is held in different cities all over the world.

Hopefully, we can inspire others to use the social media more in our global fight against tobacco.