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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2614

The Role of Media for Tobacco Control

By Manjari Peiris

"To deliver a health message effectively and in confidence it should consist of 3 significant factors, viz. authoritative, comprehensive and clear. The nature has gifted the human brain with science to be authoritative, religion to be ethical and art to address the wisdom with our feelings. If we use all these factors we may deliver a strong message to the society”, said Professor Carlo Fonseka, the Chairman of the National Alcohol and Tobacco Authority addressing the media on “How to deliver an effective health message to the public". Professor Fonseka said so addressing a workshop organized by Jeewaka Foundation for media personnel held in Colombo, to evaluate their contribution for tobacco control during the recent past.

Dr. Lakshmi Somatunga, Director, Mental Health of the Ministry of Health, emphasized the need of media personnel who have exceptional opportunity to serve the public by contributing qualitative messages continuously to help people save their lives! "Your contribution for tobacco control should not be event oriented, but should continuously do it. Every 6 seconds one person untimely loses life due to smoking. You should be careful when using captions and pictures to prevent glamorizing of smoking. The media should not promote smoking, instead should discourage smoking."

She further stated that in addition to writing on the consequences of smoking, the media could contribute profusely on other issues such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (the international health treaty) to which Sri Lanka was the first to sign in the Asia, on the National Tobacco Control Authority (NATA) and its efforts to support the government in minimizing tobacco use. "We have done much to prevent potential users from taking the habit, but we have to help the existing users to quit the habit too. Media can write on the places such as the Community Support Centre, The Cessation Clinic at Peradeniya Government Hospital etc. where the community could be directed for quitting smoking."

Dr. Somatunga requested the media personnel to raise awareness on the importance of creating smoke-free public places and on tax policies to increase cigarette prices. "According to a World Bank report, it is through high tax policies that the prevalence of smoking among low income people could be reduced. Help every moment to reduce smoking prevalence; even 10 good journalists can do wonders!"

"The media has the power to make Sri Lanka good or bad. Really speaking, media personnel are more important than politicians." Said Dr. D.V.J. Harsichandra, the Consultant Psychiatrist.

Dr. Harischandra stated that the media should stand in against smoking, "you should perform an excellent duty by taking the optimum use of your abilities. Dr. Harischandra reminisced that in the past there were plenty of tobacco advertisements to create subliminal stimulation through which teenagers could be encouraged and then addicted for smoking. It is a crime! Those days ash trays which are also a promotion for smoking were to be seen everywhere.

The industry even now uses young and attractive girls to smoke near boys’ schools/tuition classes to lure children. But it is a solace that you don’t find direct advertisements and that smoking prevalence becoming low."

He pointed out that smoking surrounding children is a terrible crime. "Smoking harms from your head to the bottom."

Dr. Jayaweera Bandara, Deputy Director General – Dental Services of the Ministry of Health who spoke on Betel chewing and health said that if a person feels that he is doing a wrong thing even at a later stage, he should be able to change himself. "To do so the media should educate the public and request them to be away from tobacco chewing or smoking."

- Asian Tribune -

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