How Cameroon cultivates its tobacco control environment
As the communications officer for the Cameroonian Coalition for Tobacco Control (C3T), I know the importance of educating journalists and guiding them to use factually accurate information from trustworthy sources. If this does not happen, they could obtain distorted information and pass it on to the public. C3T has held media dialogues with journalists for a couple of years now. Because of the opportunities these events present to build the capacity of the media to report accurately on tobacco control, we have organized three media dialogues in 2017, with more scheduled in several regions of the country in the months ahead.
Creative and direct engagement with the media can build their capacity to prevent and reduce tobacco use, so they can educate the public. C3T’s media dialogues focus on educating journalists on the evidence and impact of the science around the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that include graphic health warning labels; comprehensive tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship prohibitions; smoke-free public environments; price increases, and prohibiting the sale of individual stick cigarettes.
As a former journalist myself, I know once journalists have the opportunity to participate in an education session and engage in dialogue with the moderators and each other they are better able to understand complex issues, such as tobacco prevention and control. A key component of each training is a discussion about Cameroon’s 2013 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) results. The outcome is the ability to better use and understand data, present it more accurately, and deliver messages to their audiences more clearly. This is important, as reporting incorrect data or inaccurate messaging can have dire effects. After every media dialogue, I personally ensure all participants receive the GATS fact sheets and core takeaway messages.
When they first arrive at the dialogue sessions, it is easy to tell that these journalists know little about tobacco-related issues. They know at a high level that cigarettes are damaging to human health; however, after the session they have a greater understanding of a complex issue and of how it is affecting their communities and their country. Many journalists leave the sessions truly invested in reporting on this important public health issue, and report the information using reliable sources and accurate facts.
Since 2015, the Cameroon Global Adult Tobacco Survey has greatly helped the journalists in our country to better localize their stories and describe tobacco’s threat to our health and our economy.Through the media dialogues, C3T is able to provide journalists with clear information on the harms of tobacco use. The GATS fact sheets provide additional reputable evidence. Such a combination allows each journalist to write compelling, fact-based stories that will better inform the public on the dangers of tobacco use.