Media as advocacy tool to prioritize tobacco control as component of public health policy in a state with high penetration of other substances of abuse
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Swift Hospital, ENT & Head Neck Surgery, India
Voice of Tobacco Victims, Patron Punjab, India
Sri Guru Ram Das Dental Institute, Oral & Maxillo-Facial Surgery, India
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A643
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Background and challenges to implementation:
India is a country with large population and varying social structure wherein the perceived importance of tobacco control amongst public health policy makers is quite variable in different states. North Indian state of Punjab with a population of >27 million is facing an 'epidemic' of drug abuse with 836 drug users per 100,000 which is three times the national average. Till few years back, tobacco control was a non-issue for the policy makers in Punjab who were ignoring importance of tobacco as gateway substance and need to curb its use.

Intervention or response:
Tobacco control (TC) was an unimportant thing in public health policy in Punjab till VoTV campaign stated in 2012. Late 2013, drastic cut in VAT (Value Added Tax) on Cigarettes by Punjab government provided VoTV a window to sensitize media about importance of TC in the state. VoTV effectively used all forms of media in naming and shaming government of the day which proved crucial as is clear from difference in number of policy decisions for TC taken by Punjab government in pre & post VoTV eras.

Results and lessons learnt:
A quantitative assessment of the tobacco related media reports and timeline for the number of Key Events and Good Practices Notifications for effective TC in the state from 2012 onwards which shows statistically significant year on year increase in such reports, events and notifications in Punjab (Statistically significant). WHO regional director's appreciation award for Punjab in 2015 is a testimonial for robust TC machinery in Punjab.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
VoTV campaign in Punjab has demonstrated effectiveness of media as a tool in prioritizing tobacco control amongst public health policy makers despite rampant drug abuse being so rampant in the state thereby putting forward a first of its kind model of tobacco control advocacy in populations with high penetration of other substances of abuse.