The Union Health Ministry is planning to launch a 60-day pan India campaign on the theme 'tobacco-free youth' on May 31 which will focus on taking steps to prevent initiation of tobacco use among youngsters and assisting users to quit.
Tobacco use has declined but data reveals that its use is still unacceptably high among adolescents and adults in India.
According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), current tobacco use among young adolescents (13–15 years) in 2019 was 8.5 per cent and in the previous round (2010), it was 14.6 per cent - a decline of 42 per cent.
Several initiatives like 'tobacco-free educational institution' are part of the campaign being planned for World No Tobacco Day observed on May 31.
In a letter, Joint Secretary of the Health Ministry V Hekali Zhimomi urged states and Union Territories to conduct special drives for enforcement of the provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (CoPTA), 2003.
It especially noted provisions related to the prohibition on ban on smoking in public places (section 4), prohibition on sale within 100 yards of an educational institution and sale to and by persons aged less than 18 years (section 6) and ban on the sale of tobacco products without statutory pictorial warnings (section 7).
The Global Burden of Disease Study estimates that there were over 1.2 million (12 lakh) deaths due to smoking and secondhand smoke (SHS) in India in 2019, and more recently WHO has estimated that 1.35 million (13.5 lakh) deaths occur every year due to tobacco use overall in India.
Though India remains a global leader in introducing and implementing robust tobacco control measures, tobacco continues to be a major public health threat in the country.
As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), 2016– 2017, overall tobacco use was 28.6 per cent (21.2 per cent in urban and 32.5 per cent in rural areas), which is a 17.3 per cent relative reduction from 34.6 per cent reported in 2009–2010.
The Health Ministry is enabling a provision for citizens to take a "No Tobacco Pledge" directly on the MyGov platform of the Government of India and states have been urged to give wide publicity to this and encourage maximum participation in the campaign from May 31 to June 21.
"It may be noted that the ministry is planning to undertake the' Tobacco Free Youth Campaign' which is proposed to be launched pan India on May 31.
"In this regard, we request all the states and UTs to take necessary action/pre-planning for debriefing the district nodal officers and concerned stakeholders," the joint secretary said in the letter to the states and UTs.
The activities under the programme would include evidence-based mass media campaigns, warning against the deadly impact of tobacco use to motivate tobacco users to quit, change social norms as well as prevent early initiation, especially among the youth, according to a Tobacco-Free Youth Campaign Module which has been shared with states.
The campaign also encourages support for and adherence to effective tobacco control policies.
It also suggests a number of strategies to help villages become tobacco-free, including collaborating with a community-based organisation, leveraging existing health workers training health workers, engaging stakeholders, mobilizing the community, and conducting health education by developing Guidelines for Tobacco-free villages.
"This year, the theme of World No Tobacco Day 2023 is - 'We Need Food, Not Tobacco'. This campaign encourages governments to end tobacco growing subsidies and to use the savings to support farmers, to switch to more sustainable crops that improve food security and nutrition," the letter stated.
It highlighted that commemoration of the World No Tobacco Day is already one of the 39 approved activities under the Health and Wellness Calendar to be followed at the Health and Wellness Centres (HWCS).
It advised that instructions be given to HWCS of states and UTs to make participants take the 'No Tobacco Pledge". It also asked them to prepare an action plan for implementation of the guidelines for "Tobacco Free Educational Institutions (ToFEI)", the letter highlighted.
"States and UTs are encouraged to undertake other measures too with the objective of tobacco control in the larger public interest," the letter stated.
Tobacco use brings losses through related diseases and deaths to many users, their families and society at large. The three main diseases caused by tobacco use are cancer, coronary artery disease and chronic obstructive lung disease.
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