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Empathy to fight tobacco war

De-addiction centres in the city are making concerted efforts to wean children off tobacco products, a trend that is on the rise in spite of government orders.

Section 6(b) of the Control of Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2013, bans the sale of tobacco products within 100m of educational institutions among other places. Smoking in public is also banned.

Violators are, however, one too many. From January-April 2014, around 107 violators have been fined a total of Rs 15,000 under the COTPA section. Although it was not known how many of them are children, school principals said in spite of their advice, several students are giving into tobacco products.

Father Peter Arockiasamy S.J., the principal of St Michael’s High School, said: “Day after day, shacks selling tobacco products, including cigarettes, are mushrooming near the school. In spite of our efforts to remove these structures, they are going strong, giving the students a wrong impression.”

There is a board at the institution that “strictly” prohibits smoking on the school campus. Father Arockiasamy although said: “No matter how much we tried telling the students that addiction to tobacco products is wrong and it leads them nowhere, they get sucked into it.”

Clinical psychologist Bhawana Gupta said: “I have dealt with many cases where teenagers take to unhealthy habits and because of lack of attention at home. We empathise with them to treat them. Sympathy can deteriorate their mental stability.”

Officials in Patna’s de-addiction centres said youths between the age group of 15-22 years are the most prone to addiction.

Rakhi Sharma, a social worker associated with Disha, an alcohol and tobacco de-addiction centre, said: “In many cases, teenagers adopt the wrong path under pressure of studies or family.”

District tobacco controller, Patna, Masood Alam, said: “Once in a week, officers check public spots and schools for the sale of tobacco products. The drive was irregular during the general election. Now, the district magistrate has issued strict orders to check for shops selling tobacco products near schools twice a week.”

He added: “It’s the prime duty of the principal and the school administration to inform us about the sale of tobacco products within 100m of their institutions. As soon as we get the information, we send our officers to remove the shops within a week.”

In most cases, it’s too late.

Dr Vivek Vishal, the chief managing director of Hitaishi Happiness Home, another de-addiction centre, said: “Prevention is better than cure but parents bring their children to us when they are already highly addicted. Most children start smoking from the age of 12-15 years out of depression, distress or peer pressure.”