anti-tobacco lobby

Anti-tobacco messages in films and TV shows are effective, but need better implementation: Study

The research called for better enforcement of the Film Rule under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act.

Advisories and warning messages used in films to dissuade the use of tobacco and its products serve effective “when properly implemented” – a study conducted under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to evaluate the implementation of the ‘Film Rule’ under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act has said.

“The size and popularity of India’s film and TV industry has the power to influence the behaviour and attitudes of millions of people...There is an urgent need for better implementation and enforcement of the rule across all media,” read the study titled ‘Evaluation of Tobacco-Free Film and Television Policy in India’. It was conducted by Vital Strategies with assistance from WHO Country Office for India and published on Friday.

“Our objective in this study is to understand the importance of the ‘Film Rule’ and the current gap in implementation,” said Country Director of Vital Strategies Dr Nandita Murukutla. “The tobacco industry spends billions to mislead consumers by depicting its use as glamorous or popular. When tobacco is depicted in films and TV programmes, it is doing the tobacco industry’s work for them.”

The Film Rule under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act makes it mandatory to include three forms of warning messages – anti-tobacco health spots, audio-visual disclaimers and static health warning messages – whenever tobacco products are shown in films and TV programmes.

While 22% of the TV programmes studied depicted tobacco, only 4% of the shows were found to have implemented two of the three elements of the Film Rule. At least 99% of the films surveyed with tobacco scenes were found to have implemented at least one of the three elements of the Film Rule, and only 27% complied with all three elements. Audiences interviewed indicated that the anti-tobacco messages were easy to understand, while a section of them said it made them consider quitting.

The study involved observing more than 413 hours of randomly selected TV shows across 45 channels and interviews with 3,080 people. The research recommended organising a consultation with national stakeholders to come to a consensus on a way forward to improve the implementation of the Film Rule, which was brought into effect on October 2, 2012.

The ministry’s Global Adult Tobacco Survey – India found that 35% of people in the 15 and above age group consume tobacco in some form; 38% of adults in rural areas and 25% of them in urban areas use tobacco in some form. More than 20 crore Indians were found to prefer smokeless forms of tobacco, which include gutkha, zarda, paan masala, paan with tobacco and khaini.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.