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MLAs pledge tobacco-free state

- 20 Assam legislators support drive in respective constituencies

Guwahati, Jan. 16: The campaign against tobacco abuse has received a huge boost in Assam with a section of MLAs cutting across party lines pledging to make their respective constituencies tobacco-free.

The Voluntary Health Association of Assam, an NGO involved in the field of public and rural health, which carried out a drive to make politicians aware of the hazardous impact of tobacco abuse in association with the Voice of Tobacco Victims, said this in a statement today.

The NGO’s executive secretary Ruchira Neog said the group sought the support of the legislators to make a tobacco-free state and 20 have already vowed to do the same.

The signatories include Assam Assembly Speaker and Sivasagar MLA Pranab Kumar Gogoi, parliamentary affairs minister and Dharmapur MLA Nilamani Sen Deka, transport minister and Sidli MLA Chandan Brahma, Dibrugarh MLA Prasanta Phukan, Koliabor MLA Keshav Mahanta, Kokrajhar East MLA Pramila Rani Brahma, Bilasipara West MLA Hafiz Bashir Ahmed and South Salmara legislator Abdur Rahman Ajmal.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi signed the pledge in November.

According to the 2010 Global Adult Tobacco Survey, the prevalence of tobacco users in Assam is 39.3 per cent compared to the national tally of 34.6.

Neog said by signing a pledge, the MLAs as the people’s representatives and responsible citizens of the state, have promised to:

n Make all educational institutions tobacco-free

n Total prohibition on selling of tobacco products with 100 yards of the educational institutions

n Prevent buying or selling of tobacco products by anyone below the age of 18

According to the provisions of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003, it is mandatory for all educational institutions to put up signs mentioning clearly that selling of any tobacco products within 100 yards of an institution is strictly prohibited. It also forbids buying or selling of tobacco products by any individual below the age of 18.

Oncologist and director of the B. Barooah Cancer Institute A.C. Kataki, who is a patron of the Voice of Tobacco Victims, said, “Smoking and chewing tobacco is the single most important risk factor for cancer. Nearly, 55-60 per cent of all cancers in male and 25-30 per cent in female are tobacco-related cancer in this part of this country. Tobacco is also responsible for cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, peripheral vascular disease and has adverse affects on pregnancy and child birth.”

Hailing the MLAs’ pledge, Neog said without the support and help from the political fraternity, the drive to make Assam tobacco-free cannot be achieved.

She called upon the policy makers to take a firm stand to ensure a safe, healthy and tobacco-free future for children.

The legislators, on their part, have thanked the group for its efforts in making a tobacco-free society and promised all help.