Adults may be slightly wiser to the perils of smoking but the menace continues to claim upto seven million lives each year. Worse still, organisations like WHO have noticed a drastic upturn in the consumption of cigarettes among pre-teens and women, despite the many legal steps taken by the government. On 'World No Tobacco Day' Abilash Mariswamy speaks to the experts on the hazardous appeal of Nicotiana tabacum.
As yet another World No Tobacco Day dawns, there is good news for Karnataka where the consumption of tobacco among adults has fallen by 5.4 per cent over seven years, going by the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GAT-2).
The main reasons for the fall in smoking are the graphic warning on the cigarette packet cover, awareness programmes in schools, training programmes, capacity building and the enforcement teams present in every district and taluka, says Deputy director of the Medical, Health and Family Welfare Department Selvaraj.
To be fair , both the Centre and the state government share the credit for the many initiatives taken to curb smoking in the country. Thanks to government effort, today there is a graphic pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of the cigarette packets and tobacco products, higher duties on cigarettes and a ban on smoking in educational institutes, government offices and hospitals. Also an anti-tobacco advertisement is a regular fixture in movie theatres and on television.
But clearly a lot more needs to be done as although section 6 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA) prohibits sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions and sale to anyone below 18, the law is hardly followed.
Dr Prabhakar, joint director of the health and family welfare department, rues that despite the law, many vendors continue to sell tobacco products less than 100 yards from educational institutions. “We will take the help of the police near the institutions to ensure that this practice stops,” he assures, adding,”We are also thinking of including section 4 and the 5b clause of the Act in the trade licences to make sure that no tobacco products are sold near educational institutions.”
Interestingly, he reveals, the government intends to come out with an app to help people report violations of COTPA across the state. Mr S.J Chander, convener of the consortium, which has designed the application, says it is currently active in four states and will be introduced in the city on Wednesday. “ We have already spoken to the BBMP and health department and they are happy to use this application, which is in the larger interest of the people,” he says.
On the one million signature campaign, Mr Chander says 10 lakh signatures will be collected to demand strict action against smoking in public places. Meanwhile, the city is preparing to hold a series of events on Wednesday to mark the World No Tobacco Day . One of them is a walkathon from Anand Rao Circle to Freedom Park to create awareness on the dangers of smoking. Over 500 people are expected to participate.