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A year after it was discovered that at least 70 per cent policemen in Mumbai were addicted to tobacco, a year-long drive to counsel constables to quit the cancer-causing agent has yielded good results. From 70 per cent, the population of tobacco-consuming policemen has shot down to 45 per cent.
Screening 1,500 policemen in Marine Drive, Mata Ramabai Marg, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, Sion, Matunga, Worli, Dharavi, Malabar Hill, Nagpada, Byculla Jail and Mahim stations, a survey by the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) had found that most policemen of constable, inspector and senior ranks were in the habit of chewing tobacco such as gutka, paan masala and khaini.
According to Dr Anita Peters, director at CPAA, the stress of working in the police force went beyond normal stress levels and was a major reason for high tobacco consumption among police officials. “They are not able to eat on time when there is bandobast for a politician or an event. Because they are sometimes on duty for 36 hours at a stretch, tobacco chewing becomes a habit,” said Peters.
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As part of the campaign ‘Tobacco Free Mumbai Police Station’, launched in 2015, 10 counsellors advised police officials on trying yoga or exercise regimes to remove stress. Regular camps were held for the policemen and this was followed up with intense counseling for the tobacco consumers. As of now, of the 1,500 policemen surveyed, only 35 per cent chew tobacco.
At Wadala police station, Pravin Yadav was diagnosed with submucous fibrosis at one health camp, after which he underwent counselling. From consuming 25 packets, each day, regular calls to counselors and check-ups helped him quit the habit. Siddharth Kasabe, senior inspector at Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Police Station, said, “I feel such camps and tobacco counselling should be carried out at police stations at regular intervals.”
On Tuesday, on World No Tobacco Day, police officers who gave up the habit will be feted.