When Rajesh Shitode, 22, tried to light a cigarette with an electric lighter hung outside Vithal Paan Bidi Shop in Goregaon East on Friday, it left him startled. As he flicked on the switch, 'Ram Naam Satya Hai', a funeral chant, rung out loud.
"I did not want to light the cigarette after hearing that chant. I am not going to light it for some time now," said Shitode, who works in a pen manufacturing workshop at Goregaon.
The chanting lighter is part of a novel anti-smoking campaign designed by advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather on behalf of Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) as part of their corporate social responsibility. The agency installed the lighter in 25 shops across the city since December.
A video on YouTube, on how the lighter works, got more than a lakh views. "Some shopkeepers are reluctant to get the chanting lighter installed. We will try get authorities to make it compulsory for such shops," said Anita Peters, director, CPAA. All the shops that had installed the lighter have removed them except Vitthal Paan Bidi Shop owned by Jaya Pujari, who has agreed to use it occasionally this month. "Some people get annoyed and have told me that I will lose customers if I keep this lighter. Some ask for matchboxes. Most people smoke the cigarette they buy as they are addicted," said Pujari.
Ashish Darekar, who works with a hospitality firm in Goregaon, puffed on his cigarette despite the chant. "I am very tensed today. I need a smoke," said Darekar, who said he was aware that smoking causes cancer. Vijay Mistry, 27, who works in a wood lamination shop, also seemed unperturbed by the chant. "I know my limits and smoke only two cigarettes in a day," he said.
Surendra Shastri, head of preventive and social medicine, Tata Memorial Hospital, said: "Smoking is a problem to be tackled comprehensively at all levels. This is a negative campaign. People will insist that the lighter be removed. It will not educate people and will die a natural death in a couple of weeks."