Statement by P N Vasanti, DG, Center for Media Studies (CMS)

Shameful to have politicians blatantly promoting their own interests at the cost of health of the citizens and the nation. The current tobacco discourse in our country rises two critical issues :

  1. The conflict of interest issue of our elected and esteemed members of parliament who make and amend laws of our nation. In this age of accountability and transparency such blatant promotion of vested interests in unacceptable. We the voters, cannot afford to keep quite in such circumstances – or job is just not to caste the vote and elect a government, but to also raise our voices and keep in line such elected representatives.
  2. The power of the tobacco lobby – its quite sad and also obnoxious to all the research and advocacy efforts of doctors, scientists, activists and researchers in India, for our parliamentarians raising these fundamental issues. Whether policy on advertising or warning in films or even the issue of pictorial warnings have been made after rigorous efforts of scientists and activists – based on evidence. Both national and international organizations have been involved in such efforts. For example Dr Srinath Reddy of PFHI has been one such advocate and pioneering such efforts.
  3. Ultimately, consumer education and awareness of the poisonous effect of tobacco is critical. In a study conducted by CMS (2004), on the ban on smoking in public and the mandatory warning prohibiting sale of cigarettes to minors (below 18 years) by all shopkeepers, such efforts clearly discourages smoking. Advertising campaigns like the one by DAVP and warnings in feature films, also played critical role of reminding the menace of tobacco to health and creating an enabling environment that makes smoking unfashionable.

The media today has taken up both these critical issues – an important forum to make our law makers more accountable and also highlighting the lobbies at play. I just hope all this media hype result in more informed and active citizens by raising their voices in different mediums and ways against such blatant misuse of power.

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