An entire district and a village have been declared smoke-free zones in Bihar for their adherence to tobacco act provisions.
Sources in State Health Society, Bihar, said a New Delhi-based non-government organisation (NGO) recently conducted a survey in Munger and Kishanganj districts. The study aimed at checking the status of tobacco-control programmes in the districts declared the Munger district (around 225km east of Patna) and Rustampur village in Kishanganj district (around 400km northeast of Patna) smoke-free.
The survey, commissioned by the State Health Society, Bihar, found these places following the provisions of the Control of Tobacco Products Act.
N.K. Mishra, state programme officer, Tobacco Control Cell, State Health Society, Bihar, said: “As many as 413 public places in three blocks of Munger district had been selected for making the observations. The NGO checked if mandatory signage were put up at betel shops and within 100 yards of educational institutions. The members of the NGO also checked if any person was smoking in the public places or any remnants of cigarettes were found at the spots.”
Sources said every year, Bihar registers around 80,000 new cancer patients. Experts believe declaring a whole district smoke-free zone was a big achievement so far as the state’s health scenario was concerned. Cancer is one of the biggest concerns for Bihar and smoking is one of the main reasons for it.
On the initiative to make Munger and Rustampur village smoke-free zones, Mishra said: “The state health society, along with the NGO, carried out an intensive campaign for the tobacco control programme in Munger district. The feat (declaring it smoke-free) is the result of those initiatives. We asked betel-shop owners to discourage people below 18 years of age from buying cigarettes. We had put signage near the educational institutions too. All these efforts have borne fruit today.”
If Rustampur and Munger district have achieved the feat, Mishra admitted that the state health society is still far way off to make Patna a smoke-free zone.
Rajesh Kumar Singh, clinical oncologist and head of department, regional cancer centre, Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, said: “Making a whole district smoke free is definitely a big achievement but a lot remains to be done. The government’s rollback of the tax on khaini (raw tobacco) last year cannot be appreciated. Khaini consumption is increasing the number of cancer patients. The health department needs to raise tax on every tobacco product.”
The state government on Friday extended the ban on gutkha and paan masala ahead of World No Tobacco Day on May 31 for another year. It would include all items for which tobacco and nicotine are used as ingredients.