How Voice Of Tobacco Victims (VOTV) was Born on 31st May 2008
“Voice Of Tobacco Victims” is the brainchild of Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Associate Professor, Tata Memorial Hospital. He always wondered how a cancer causing substance, that kills millions every year, be sold so freely and advertized so brazenly. He was disturbed by the sight of ever increasing number of young cancer patients visiting his cancer clinic every day. Most of them, owing to advanced stage, died within 5 years of diagnosis. Those who survived, lived with severe depression, dejection, disfigurement and disability.
Rather than being a silent witness of a crime and wait for someone else to find a solution, he decided to spend some time in tobacco control activities. He planned to make tobacco victims as the public face of the war on tobacco. He decided to help tobacco victims get justice and help them raise a war cry against the very industry that they patronized for decades. He envisaged that no one can withstand this formidable force that is driven by pure passion. His idea was supported by Dr PC Gupta and Dr Surendra Shastri of Action Council Against Tobacco India. Finally, this experiment began on 31st May, 2008 with a small group of 10 cancer patients of Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi. The experiment proved immensely successful… these cancer patients shocked the media and audience with their grit and determination. They have only one aim for their countrymen “ This is what tobacco did to us, we want to save others!”
1. The first meeting of VoTV happened on 31st May 2009 in Tata Memorial Hospital. The impact of this meeting could be gauged from the fact that it was covered by 36 news papers including the most popular one. For more details
2. Inspired after the meeting, one of the members filed a compensation Suit against formidable Indian Tobacco Company (originally BAT) for 10 million rupees. He is a larynx cancer patient whom I treated 2 years back. Despite ITC’s powerful legal team, the case did not get rejected. Several other members have filed for compensation in local consumer redressal forums all over the country.
Mumbai Mirror Link 01
3. In September, 2010 during National Congress on Tobacco & Health at Mumbai, the VoTV members cornered the Health Minister and presented them a Charter of Demands and a huge canvas with more than thousand signatures. This event was published in 16 news papers including the prominent ones. See the news coverage
4. Many members have started their own mini campaigns at village levels and district level with their own innovative ideas which has given it as shape of nationwide campaign with great media coverage. See the news coverage
5. VoTV members, wrote letters to celebs who endorse Tobacco product. Such letters from cancer patients has led to a sharp decline in celeb endorsement. One such example is – Sanjay Dutt says no to gutka, tobacco endorsements
6. VoTV members condemned the senior politicians who represent Tobacco Industry as advocates – See the news coverage
7. VoTV members worked with the media to condemn the government for delay in pictorial warning and their views got published in several news papers See the news coverage
8. VoTV members condemned the government for offering top government honor to the Chairman of Indian Tobacco Company – See the news coverage
9. Shri Devendra Singh, a VoTV member, spearheaded a campaign where Tobacco Victims participated in anti-corruption campaign in New Delhi. This got a huge media coverage. – See the news coverage
For more news coverage –
See the news coverage Link 01
See the news coverage Link 02
See the news coverage Link 03
10. VoTV members partcipated in a unique campaign along with Directors of the Regional cancer centers in several states of India on 31st May, 2011. These Directors are opinion leaders of oncology in India. Seventeen such Directors wrote letters to the Prime Minister and Health minister to ban Gutka and Pan Masala in India. This campaign had a dramatic impact on Media and Society at large. This activity was covered by 27 leading news papers of different states. One such coverage
11. With World Lung foundation VoTV members developed a powerful Television campaign on smokeless tobacco showing a 24 years boy who died of throat cancer while the campaign was still running – See the news coverage
12. VoTV members also consented to participate in a hugely popular online campaign, with World Lung Foundation and several other NGOs, against smokeless tobacco – See the news coverage
13. Three of the VoTV members are also volunteered to become interventions in the ongoing Supreme Court Case against Gutka/Pan Masala. See the news coverage
14. Most of the VoTV members have emerged as strong health advocates in their local community educating people about early signs of cancer, diagnosis, treatment etc.
15. They have been participating in most of the tobacco control meetings as important stakeholders. For example, VoTV members attended the music release of Shaan at Tata Memorial Hospital – See the news coverage
16. VoTV members have also been participating alongside doctors in BBC world service media workshops. It is noticeable that their presence offers an additional impact to media coverage.
17. Lobbying with Members of Parliament and the policy makers – On, 11th February and 17th March, the VOTV members held a meeting in New Delhi which turned out to be the “mother of all meeting”. They shared their plight with Ministers, Bureaucrats, media, public in a very emotional way. These meetings not only sensitized the media and policy makers but also sensationalized the issue of smokeless tobacco. The media response was beyond expectations.