This year, the World Health Organisation’s World No Tobacco Day campaign focuses on protecting children and youths from exploitation by the tobacco industry. The World No Tobacco Day is observed on May 31.
Dr. Vinayak Mohan Prasad, coordinator, No Tobacco (TFI), WHO, Geneva, said tobacco kills more than 8 million people every year with over a million premature deaths in India. More than 14.6 per cent of youth (13-15 years of age) use some form of tobacco in India and this is a matter of serious concern, he added. “With more than 42 per cent men and 14 per cent women totalling 266 million users (according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016-17), we do have a problem,” Prasad said.
Prasad told The Indian Express that quitting tobacco will reduce preventable deaths from cancers, cardiovascular diseases, lung disorders and diabetes, all of which, incidentally, are the main co-morbidities seen among severe Covid-19 cases.
Notwithstanding lobbying from vested groups, farmers’ front groups and the tobacco industry, now is the time to properly implement the national tobacco control programme (NTCP), he said, adding that the NTCP was not running to its optimal capacity in some states.
India has taken strong measures to raise awareness on the harms of tobacco, he said.
According to Prasad, India is one of the best practice countries when it comes to regulation of smoking scenes in TV and films, but implementation is a challenge with most of the streaming services violating the rules set by the government. “I do hope this gets fixed quickly so that the tobacco industry is not able to influence children through TV, films and other digital streaming services,” he said.
This year, the WHO has launched a kit for school students aged 13-17 years to alert them to the tactics adopted by the tobacco industry to hook them to addictive products.
Dr. Sushrut Ganpule, pulmonologist and chest physician at Jupiter hospital, said, “During this pandemic, tobacco chewing or smoking involves contact of fingers with the lips, which can increase risk of transmission of virus from hand to mouth via contaminated cigarettes.” He added that smoking impairs lung function, making it harder for the body to fight off coronavirus and other respiratory diseases.
Professor Pankaj Chaturvedi, deputy director and surgical oncologist from Tata Memorial Hospital, said, “As per the WHO, tobacco addiction is a disease. Every third adult Indian is suffering from a serious disease. It is the only legal product which, if consumed as recommended by its manufacturer, kills up to half of its users. Campaigns such as ‘Pledge for life – tobacco free youth’, which focus on stopping the initiation and where the forces act as a multiplier effect, are a role model for the country. These can be replicated for many other causes of public health. While industries focus on attracting youth, public health programmes should address prevention. This is the only answer for protecting our youth.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines