November 3, 2009 1:15:47 am
The Delhi University Smoke-Free Initiative,after being extended to all DU colleges,has now turned its focus to beedis,as its usage among the youth is increasing.
The primary target of the campaign against beedis,however,would be the non-teaching staff. Beedis were the main agenda in a meeting of nodal officers of the project on October 25.
Every college of the university has a member of the faculty assigned as the nodal officer.
Well be targeting karamcharis (workers),who form a significant chunk of the university population. A large number of karamcharis smoke beedis. It has also been noted that rickshaw-pullers,who form the backbone of the DU transport system smoke beedis, said G R Khatri,president,World Lung Foundation (South Asia).
Nodal officers have been asked to educate smokers that beedis are no less harmful than cigarettes, said Khatri.
Cutting the source rather than a smoking ban is the aim of the project; and we have been largely successful in doing so. Well discourage non-teaching staff from smoking on campus, said St Stephens nodal officer Pankaj Misra. Misra added that if students require counselling,they are encouraged to go to the centre at the Patel Chest Institute. Khatri,however,accepted that the move is not backed by any scientific study done among DU students and staff. This does not hold him back from claiming that beedi usage is rising among youth. Youth have started preferring beedis as they cost less,are easily available and give them a rush of nicotine, he said.
Khatri also claims that the youth prefer beedis as they look like marijuana joints.
There are 100 million beedi smokers in India,and three per cent of high school students smoke beedis. It would be safe to assume that these statistics apply to Delhi University, said Khatri.
All available research on the topic,however,is from the US,which claims that it is subject to racial,ethnic,and cultural variations.
The World Lung Foundation is also advocating a radical change in the taxation policy on beedis. It is absurd to say that the low tax on beedis benefits the worker, said Khatri.
His organisation calls for limitation of the distinction between hand and machine-rolled beedis and an increase in beedi tax,making it on par with micro non-filter cigarettes.
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