ASTRA’s vision is to achieve a significant reduction in the burden of disease caused by smokeless tobacco in South Asia.
We aim to inform policies to control the supply and demand of smokeless tobacco in South Asia.
We are also developing and evaluating interventions to help people to quit using smokeless tobacco.
We are strengthening research capacity to support wider tobacco control efforts in the South Asia region.
An agreement drawn up by the World Health Organisation (WHO) called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) aims to improve global health, by providing a framework for tobacco control measures to be implemented at national, regional and international levels.
Countries which have signed up to the WHO-FCTC are committed to putting in place various measures to reduce tobacco demand and supply. This includes taking actions such as regulating the contents, packaging and labelling of tobacco products, warning people about the dangers of tobacco and banning tobacco sales to children.
In high-income countries, FCTC measures have had considerable success in reducing the harm caused by cigarettes. However, for smokeless tobacco, control policies are poorly developed and badly implemented and in general haven’t been supported by high quality research. This is particularly the case in low & middle income countries (LMICs).
One of the aims of ASTRA is to gather evidence about how the policies recommended by the WHO-FCTC are being developed and implemented for smokeless tobacco in LMICs. This part of the programme will focus on young people, since 90% of ST users start their habit during adolescence.
Another aim is to develop and evaluate interventions, such as behavioural support or medicines, to help adult ST users to quit.
We also aim to build capacity, by training research teams at LMIC institutions to conduct high quality applied health research in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.
We will use this capacity to support wider tobacco control efforts in the South Asia region.
ASTRA’s objectives, as defined in our research proposal, are as follows:
- To monitor and evaluate the impact of existing WHO-FCTC policies on ST uptake, particularly among adolescents; providing a strong evidence base for future policy development.
- To design and/or adapt behavioural and pharmacological interventions to help adult ST users quit, to test the feasibility and acceptability of these interventions, and assess whether definitive trials to assess their (cost-) effectiveness can be carried out.
- To engage stakeholders in our research plans, knowledge transfer activities and advocacy efforts, thereby enhancing the translation and impact of our findings.
- To build research capacity in participating institutions in South Asia, by offering bespoke training in tobacco prevention and control science and applied health research, sharing examples of good practice, offering mentorship and helping to secure research fellowships/studentships.
- To sustain and scale up our research activities through a strong research team, establishing links with academic, governmental and advocacy organisations, seeking additional funding and involving more countries.