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Tobacco: A threat to public health and environment

Tobacco: A threat to public health and environment
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By: Er. Prabhat Kishore

Tobacco consumption is the major cause of preventable death and illness. It kills half of its users prematurely, especially in their reproductive age. It is a major risk factor formany chronic diseases, including Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), Diabetes, Lung Diseases, Stroke, Infertility, Blindness, Tuberculosis (TB), Oral Cavities etc.

The exposure to second-hand Smoke or passive smoking causes numerous health problems in infants, children and adults. Spitting of tobacco products leads to spread of swine flu, pneumonia, gastro intestinal diseases, posing a potential risk of transmission of TB as well as nuisance to the public.

There are two forms of tobacco – “Smoking Tobacco”, such as cigarettes, bidi, Ganja, hooka, cigars etc. and “Smokeless Tobacco” such as Khaini, Jarda, Gutkha etc. New and emerging electronic products (e-cigarettes and like products) have created new challenges.

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and electronic non-nicotine delivery system (ENNDS), commonly known as e-Cigarettes, do not contain tobacco and may or may not contain nicotine, but are harmful for health. The combustion of tobacco releases carcinogen, like benzene and formaldehyde, which damages lung cells and DNA, leading to cancer.

According to the report of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India (2016-17), about  33.2 crore population of adults (28 % of all adults)  above 15 years age groupuse tobacco in Bharat, out of which 10 crore are smokers, 20 crore are smokeless tobacco users and 3.2 crore are of both users. As per the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (2009), 14.6 % of students aged 13 to 15  use tobacco. In Bharat, more than 13 lakh people lose their life every year due to tobacco consumption.It leads to social and economic costs too.

Globally 62 countries have adopted comprehensive smoke-free policies. Bharat Sarkar  has enacted Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products(Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply & Distribution) Act 2003 (or COTPA 2003) in 2004 for effective reduction of tobacco consumption.

Various Rules and Guidelines have been issued from time to time to restrict the tobacco use. Smoking in public places, Sale of tobacco products to and by the minors. Sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions, Advertising and promotion of such products etc. is prohibited. Statutory warnings have been placed on tobacco packets. It has been made mandatory to display such warnings in Films and TV.

Smokeless Tobacco products are banned through the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations 2011 under the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006. In 2007-08, National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) has been launched which focuses on community mobilization, School programmes, IEC and advocacy besides implementation of control laws. People’s Representatives Institutions(PRI) have pivotal role and responsibilities in  implementing the laws, rules and regulation to control the tobacco consumption.

Children and adolescents are the future of any nation. Hence, it must be mandatory to make our educational institutions tobacco free. As per report of GYTS and GATS, there is significant tobacco use among adolescents and youngsters.

Hence a guideline has been released in 2008  for “Tobacco free Educational Institutions”, with the objectives of – (a) Awareness about the harmful impacts on health due to tobacco use among students, teachers and other institutional functionaries, (b) healthy and tobacco free environment in the institution, (c ) better implementation of legal provision regarding tobacco use.

The institution should display “Tobacco Free Educational Institution” signage in the form of Sign boards or wall writings at prominent places inside and outside the premises. The institution should designate one or more Tobacco Monitors from among teachers, staffs and/or students from class- IX onwards.

The monitor must not be tobacco user. The institution should ensure that no Tobacco product is sold inside the premises and within a radius of 100 yards. Fine should be imposed on tobacco user if found. The institutional authority should help tobacco users to quit tobacco by encouraging them to avail  Quitline services and mCessation.

Tobacco monitor should remain vigilant aboutthe tobacco substitutes such as e-Cigarettes and the like devices such as Heat-Not-Burn Devices, Vapes, e-Sheesha, e-Nicotine Flavoured Hookah.

The institution should organize various tobacco control activities such as Assembly for taking pledge against tobacco, organizing co-curricular activities such as Poster/Slogan/Essay/Quiz/Debate competitions and street plays etc. Certificate of appreciation /awards should be provided to those students/teachers/staffs who perform good work in this field. The local law enforcement authorities/health authorities should be invited from time to time to deliver lectures on tobacco control in the school assembly.

Although several laws, rules and other prohibitory measures are prevalent in the country to save the lives of people from Tobacco consumption, but these acts and rules are just lip services. If Government is really sensitive towards a healthy and Nasha-Mukt Bharat, then the production of all intoxicating products including tobacco should be completely banned and its factories should be sealed; otherwise, the numerous fashionable control programmes and initiatives will bea misuse of public money and human resources.

(The author is a technocrat and an academician)

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