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Warning Sign

Behavioural scientist Dr Mira B Aghi stresses on the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco

Behavioural scientist Dr Mira B Aghi stresses on the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco

She was the first woman from Asia to be awarded the WHO gold medal on Tobacco Control in 1989,and she also won the international Luther L Terry award at the recently concluded 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Singapore. Behavioural scientist Dr Mira B Aghi stresses on the fact that awareness should be created about the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco. The conference addressed some bold issues. Dr Margaret Chan,director-general of the World Health Organisation,boldly opposed the tobacco industry and openly condemned corporate social responsibility which is like a front group of the tobacco industry.

Aghi,when contacted in New Delhi,told The Indian Express that smokeless tobacco,for the first time showed a leap forward in its recognition as a debilitating agent with health impacts much more severe,disabling,and disproportionate and long lasting. It cleared the air that the smokeless tobacco that is used in the region can never be used as a harm-reduction. It is a harm-multiplier,Aghi said.

Since the arrival of manufactured smokeless tobacco in the market,women and children have started using it and are getting addicted. There has been no large-scale education to inform and educate people on the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco,she says. “The perception of women on smokeless tobacco is that it is not only harmless but serves their purpose of postponing hunger,controlling their anger when abused,giving a fillip when they are down,helping to digest food and assisting them to keep awake if they have to work at late hours,” says Aghi who has been conducting research on the subject for a while now.


Wherever smoke free has caught on – whether Australia,Canada,New York,California or even Thailand — people were educated about the benefits of a smokeless public and work place. “So when the policy was introduced,it took no time to embrace it. This is not so in India. We brought the policy but there are difficulties implementing it. We need strong pictorial warnings,” she insists.

Aghi,whose work has focused on intervention research and advocacy in tobacco control,has been designing strategies for intervention with special emphasis on women’s and children’s needs and rights. Aghi obtained her PhD in Psychology from Loyola University,Chicago and is also a visiting scientist,Harvard School of Public Health,Boston,USA. “A tobacco user will think about changing his behaviour if he understands the rationale for the new behaviour (quitting) which has to be based on his information needs. The information has to be relevant to him,to his life,to his profile and it has to have benefits for him. He has to be amply motivated and he has to have the skill to quit. A strategy that is designed keeping these in mind will be successful. My methodology of Involving People Evolving Behaviour is the dictum of all my work,” she explains.

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