Amal Chandra Kataki speaks in Guwahati on Sunday.
Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, June 5: The Assam government has joined hands with the country's top-bracket NGOs in the health sector to make 50,000 schools in the state tobacco-free.
Some of the criteria for a tobacco-free educational institution are prominent display of mandatory signage prohibiting selling of tobacco products within a 100-yard radius, no smoking or chewing of tobacco on school premises by students, teachers, other staff members, visitors and appointment of nodal officers for tobacco control and monitoring activities.
The state education department has collaborated with the Tata Education Trust, Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health and Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV), to launch Tobacco-Free Educational Institutes (TFEI) scheme to make 50,000 schools across the state tobacco-free within the next three years.
The director of B#. Borooah Cancer Institute and patron of VoTV, Amal Chandra Kataki, told reporters here today that Assam has the highest number of patients with cancer of oesophagus, pharynx (or throat), larynx and gallbladder in the country with tobacco-chewing being a major contributor. "Various surveys and studies have found that of the 3.12 crore population in Assam, 1.2 crore use tobacco products. The most dangerous is the fact that 40 lakh tobacco users in the state are schoolchildren. If these children are not made to quit smoking at the earliest, they will be in the highly-vulnerable group to get cancer," Kataki said.
According to the latest data released by the Indian Council of Medical Research, among total cancer patients in Kamrup (metro) district, 49.7 per cent males and 24.1 per cent females got cancer as a result of tobacco consumption.
Of the cancer patients in Dibrugarh, 51.6 per cent males and 22.8 per cent females were victims of tobacco consumption. Kataki said it was high time to launch schemes like TFEI to prevent the future generation from becoming victims of tobacco use.
Sanjay Seth, chief of operations, Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, said the initiative, along with providing a safe campus for children, would also provide a clean environment as tobacco products are largest cause of litter.
Project director of VoTV, Ashima Sarin, said tobacco not only impacts every part of the body, but also every member of a family.
"The scheme TFEI can not only make schoolchildren aware of the dangerous outcome of tobacco use, but also send similar messages to other family members and friends through students," Sarin said.