Exposing tobacco industry tactics in implementation of 85% GHW's through media advocacy
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Voluntary Health Association of India, India
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A745
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Background and challenges to implementation:
Graphic health warnings (GHWs) are an effective measure to warn tobacco users of the harm of tobacco use. GHWs on packaging of tobacco products is legally mandated as per India's national tobacco control legislation Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products Act 2003. GHWs were notified on 15th October, 2014 & effective from 1st April, 2015 - pictorial warning to cover 85% area on both sides of tobacco packs. However the notification was kept in abeyance in March 2015, due to tobacco industry pressure.

Intervention or response:
Using earned media to expose tobacco industry tactics towards delaying the implementation of 85 percent graphic health warnings. The strategy was to ensure that news items or stories come out to attract the attention of the government and the public. To do so, VHAI decided to increase consumer awareness about the issue of pictorial warnings in the news through a sustained strategy of media engagement. We increased our interactions with the media, both on a one-to-one basis and through press meets during the year 2014 - 2016. Brief yet accurate press releases were also issued to the print media for stories.

Results and lessons learnt:
This strategy of media advocacy resulted in nearly over 1200 earned media stories on 85 graphic health warnings. More than 100 hours' time on news channels. These stories created pressure and become a national debate. After a two-year battle, India implemented 85 percent graphic health warnings on tobacco products package from 1st April, 2016.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
The media was sensitized and in the process, a personal rapport began was developed with journalists. VHAI's state level network, tobacco control partners and linkages with vernacular media helped to make the GHW issue a Pan India campaign.