Advocacy by children to remove surrogate products advertisements on the public transport buses in Mumbai
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Salaam Bombay Foundation, Tobacco Control & Advocacy, India
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A64
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Background and challenges to implementation:
Section 5 of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA, 2003) of India prohibits direct and indirect advertisements of tobacco products. As a result, advertisements of surrogate products like 'pan masala' (a mouth freshener containing areca nut and slake lime) bearing the same brand name and packaging as tobacco products are had risen dramatically, particularly on the buses of Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) which runs nearly 3600 buses in neighbourhoods of Mumbai.

Intervention or response:
Salaam Bombay Foundation (SBF) conducted a survey in May 2011 among 3000 Mumbai residents to build evidence on the impact of such surrogate advertisements at places like BEST buses. The respondents were shown a series of flash cards of three advertised 'pan masala' brands- 'Goa 1000', 'RMD' and 'Rajshree' and three popular non-tobacco brands. The results of survey were submitted to policy makers along with the demand charter from students participating in SBF's Super Army Leadership Program and advocacy meetings were conducted with Superintendent, License and Advertisement Department, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the chairman of media agency controlling display of advertisements on BEST buses.

Results and lessons learnt:
The survey results showed that 82% children and 84% adults identified 'pan masala' in the advertisements as 'gutkha' (a widely used smokeless tobacco product in India). After submission of report of the survey and advocacy meetings with BMC officials and advertising agency, BMC issued an official letter to all vendors to restrict display of surrogate advertisements for tobacco products, and, within a month all surrogate advertisements were removed from all the BEST buses.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
Tobacco industry finds ways to circumvent tobacco control laws prohibiting product advertisements. Surrogate advertising have been effectively used to advertise tobacco brands. Targeted advocacy with stakeholders has proved effective in curbing surrogate advertisements at public transport systems. Thus, building evidence for advocacy to curb such advertising is important.