Together with China, India has been
the focus of the world's attention this past decade for its
economic potential and the huge opportunities the developed world
sees in the Asian giant. But health is one key area where India
has a long way to go. And the one time bomb which is ticking away
is the menace of tobacco, whose use is taking alarming
India has the second largest group of smokers in the world after
China. Over 120 million Indians smoke and more than one million
Indians die every year due to tobacco related illnesses. Almost a
third of Indians -- 57 percent of men and 11 percent of women --
consume some form of tobacco. Many use more than one type of
India ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in
February 2004 and has initiated numerous tobacco control measures
besides implementing a comprehensive law on smoke-free public
places, prohibition of sale of tobacco products to minors, and
direct and indirect advertising promotion of tobacco products.
However, given the size of the country, effective enforcement of
the law continues to be a mammoth challenge.
Equally tough is the task of developing and implementing effective
policies on taxation of tobacco products and industry.
Non-cigarette tobacco products account for 85 percent of tobacco
consumption in India, but contribute only about 15 percent of
In order for tobacco control to be effective in India, it is vital
that issues related to tobacco/tobacco control are kept in the
public eye, and in the forefront of the minds of policy-makers and
Effective and accurate reporting of the issue on a regular basis,
is key to help achieve this.
To facilitate this, BBC World Service Trust implemented a media
training initiative in India with the overarching aim of
increasing the quantity and quality of media coverage of tobacco
control issues at both state and national levels.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids supported project was designed
to give media professionals a better understanding of the dangers
of tobacco use, so that they are motivated to cover these topics.
The initiative was also intended to help policy and
decision-makers, and those responsible for enforcing relevant
Workshops were organized for journalists and NGOs across eight
project cities including New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and
Chennai. Across eight cities, 111 journalists were trained on
feature journalism skills interspersed with sessions on tobacco
Topics such as government and tobacco industry, taxation issues,
legal aspects of tobacco control, challenges faced by government
in implementing tobacco control law and experiences of NGOs were
While the sessions helped media personnel improve their
understanding of the impact of tobacco use and the issues around
effective tobacco control, one to one sessions with cancer
patients, interactions with guest speakers and field visits
motivated them to cover these topics.
A total of 62 NGO officials representing 33 NGOs were trained on
media handling skills.
"I have had a couple of journalists calling me after the workshop
to better understand what you were speaking," said Upendra Bhojani
of the Indian Institute of Public Health, Bangalore.
The project was expected to make an impact at various levels -
policy makers, policy implementers, influencers and the public at
large. However, as strategy, we targeted influencers to form and
shape the opinion of policy makers, implementers and the general
Collaboration of the two influencers - media and NGOs - would
result in increase in the quality and quantity of tobacco related
Thus, the reportage produced by the media will generate awareness
among the public about the effects of tobacco consumption on
health, economy and society; and stimulate a conducive environment
for public debate and calls for better accountability and even
pressure for policy makers to formulate, strengthen and enforce
policies on tobacco control.
(The author is
project manager, BBC World Services Trust. She can be reached on