Thursday, July 13, 2017

                                  Tobacco making headlines in media

Tobacco and cannabis use recently made headlines in the mainstream and social media for wrong reasons. While the phrases used in the headlines were not only catchy but misleading in some aspects. Headlines should be catchy for the NEWS to sell but the content of any news must give the true picture of the issue at hand. Media must play a very important role in dissemination of information-in the truest sense!!

Let me give my opinion on the headlines and the issue of substance use in the country.

First the Editorial on Kuensel dated July 5, 2017 with the headlineBan has not worked. Now what?

Ban has not worked?? 
Hmmmmm…??    I wonder how one can come to conclusion on whether the “Ban” has really worked or not without actually comparing the data before the ban and after. Yes, it is true that the percentage of tobacco user in the country is quite high. But has the percentage been lower before the ban? This question has to be answered before one can conclude “Ban has not worked”
However, this is not to dismiss the fact that tobacco ban is without shortcomings. Every policy will have its own share of its limitations. Black market is one major side effects of the ban.

Secondly, Bhutan has the highest percentage (29.3) of adolescent tobacco users. While the figure mentioned in the report is credible, but media should make an effort to give the interpretation of what the figure really represent.

Now, picture this: 
A survey on Blood pressure amongst Bhutanese population has been carried out to study the prevalence of high BP.  The normal BP is 120/80 mmHg.  If the study shows 80% of the respondents have higher than 120/80 mmHg, media must NOT come up with crazy headline “80% of all Bhutanese are suffering from high BP.”   Most of the respondents may be 70% will have BP level ranging from 121-130/80mmHg, which is not a hazardous BP level. Only 140/90mmHg can be considered as HIGH, which only 10% or less may be suffering from.

Similarly, when it comes to issues like substance use, it is very important to dissect the figure and accordingly inform the public. The percentage of tobacco user may be around 30% but this figure does not represent the problem user (smoking more than 4 days a week). The problem user accounts to only 6.6% which comes to around 4,653 adolescents (9.4% of total population is adolescent which comes to around 70500 adolescent in the country). Considering the fact that more than 6 million worldwide (1 on about 1200 people) die each year due to tobacco related disease, the burden in Bhutan is not much of an issue.

Now, on the other hand, these high figures are definitely alarming and must be given due importance and policies in place to prevent further inflation of the figures. There is every chance that any of the 29. 3 % tobacco user can become problem user- We must prevent this at all cost. Secondly, substances such as tobacco and alcohol are called “gateway drugs.” After individuals are introduced to these substances, they are at higher risk of initiating other hard drugs like marijuana and pharmaceutical drugs.

Lastly, whenever an agency conduct an important study, after finalizing the reports, they must ensure the reports are shared with media houses and explain to them in detail the findings and the interpretation of the figures for public consumption. The media on the other hand must not demand or sneak at the draft reports/incomplete documents and publish just to make headlines. It is a shared responsibility of both the concerned agency and the media; the ball must be handled together instead of throwing in each other’s court.

By the way, Bhutan also tops the list in alcohol consumption with 24.2%.  Anyone surprised????

Disclaimer: The views expressed here is my own personal opinion and doesn’t represent views of any institution or agency

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