Analysis of media reports to understand tobacco industry tactics in undermining tobacco tax policies in Bangladesh
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Jamuna Television, Senior Reporter, Bangladesh
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A77
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Mass media plays an important role in influencing tobacco control policies. The tobacco industry also uses the mass media to promote their products and undermine tobacco control policies, in particular tobacco tax policies. To understand the tactics of tobacco industry to prevent effective tobacco tax policies through analyzing media reports on tobacco tax issues during the budget discussion in Bangladesh.

The study analyses tobacco related reports published in more than twenty national newspapers in Bangladesh during April-May of 2015 and May-June of 2016. Both Quantitative and qualitative analysis focused on the contents and number of the stories.

The study shows that 290 reports out of 1398 reports during this time focused on smuggling by tobacco industries to mislead the policy makers and public with the message that increasing tobacco taxes may lead to increase in the smuggling. While all the newspapers studied published stories on smuggling of tobacco products, the anti-tobacco news were not found in all those newspapers. Most of the anti-tobacco reports are event news and lack specific contents on tobacco tax related issues. Whereas the stories supporting tobacco industry position to prevent tax increase include very specific statistics to influence the tax policy makers. Only 58 stories focused on real tobacco taxation from tobacco control perspective, whereas 110 stories support the position of tobacco industry.

Accurate information and statistics need to be provided to the policy makers to counter the influence of stories on tobacco smuggling myths. The anti-tobacco events should have very clear and specific demands on effective tobacco tax policies and under understanding of tobacco control activists on tobacco tax issues needs to be enhanced. Understanding and skills of journalists for reporting on tobacco tax issues need to be sharpened.