Every time we go to watch a movie in the cinema nowadays, we have to sulkingly sit through cumbersome ads before the movie starts and even during the interval on quitting tobacco and the ill effects it has on one’s health and that of his near and dear ones. The fate of one patient being treated for oral cancer in the nation’s leading cancer institute is repeatedly depicted to death (Pun unintended).
You may ask “What’s the point of all this?”. The smokers continue to smoke, the pan and tobacco chewers continue to colour the cities red.
I think the main purpose of these ads when they were conceived by the government was to aim at PREVENTION, especially in the YOUTH.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey by WHO in 2009-10, 26% of adults in India consume smokeless tobacco, a number amounting to a staggering 206 million. Add to this, the 120 million who smoke tobacco in various forms. Tobacco alone is responsible for killing 2.5 million people annually in our country.
Tobacco consumption is a serious health issue, which is neither new nor unknown and the requirement for it to be addressed on an urgent basis need not be stated.
India is a young nation, with 50%of the population aged less than 25 years and 65% below 35. With around 55% of the teenagers below 18 years of age addicted to tobacco, it is pertinent that efforts should be directed at prevention and education in the youth if we want a better and healthy future for our country.
Remembering the old adage PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE, a stepwise program should be designed if we are to combat this evil with positive results.
1. Grassroots Level Awareness
Efforts should be made to educate children at a young age about the ill effects of tobacco by making it mandatory in the school curriculum.
Awareness drives with audio visual presentations should be organized for the high risk population like daily laborers, school kids and college goers.
Going Hand in Hand with this year’s WHO World No Tobacco Day Theme, ’Stop Illicit Trade of Tobacco Products’, there should be government control over the sale of tobacco and stern action should be taken on companies selling tobacco illegally in the rural areas.
Strict penal action must also be taken to reinforce the already existing ban on sale of tobacco products near educational institutions. Legislation should also be initiated and strengthened in this direction including banning the sale of tobacco near hospitals and government buildings.
3. Health Education & Screening
Health Screening camps should be organized so as to detect the diseases like oral cancer, bronchitis etc. at an early stage and also educate the masses as to how to detect early signs and symptoms and report to the hospital at once in the case they occur. There is also a requirement of increasing awareness about Deaddiction Clinics.
4. Increase Health Budget
Combating Tobacco is a gargantuan task and requires an increased expenditure on Healthcare in the Union Budget. (Currently, we rank below even Sri Lanka globally in public expenditure on Healthcare.)
5. Use of Social Media
With the advent of Social Media especially amongst the younger generation, it should be aggressively used for campaigns and drives against tobacco.
Celebrities, sportspersons and prominent public figures should be roped in to strengthen the campaigning as they can have a huge positive influence on the youth and the population in general
This is just a primary outline and we as a nation can responsibly work around this to build a strong framework to fight the menace of tobacco addiction and carve a better future of the nation.
About the Author
Dr. Omkar Halwai
ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) Surgeon
Assistant Professor, Department of ENT,
K.J Somaiya Medical College & Hospital