GUWAHATI: Tobacco kills more than 13.5 lakh people each year in India. In Assam nearly half of all adults over 15 years use tobacco, compared with 28.6% of India. Assam has more than 1 crore tobacco users of which 13.3 lakh are cigarette users, 18.8 lakhs are bidi users and 91 lakhs consume smokeless tobacco as per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2017.
In the last 6 years, the prevalence of tobacco use in Assam has increased 22.65% relatively from 39.3% to 48.2%. As per GATS 2017, 62.9% of men, 32.9% of women and 48.2% of all adults (aged 15+) currently either smoke or use smokeless tobacco in Assam. In a landmark initiative ‘Pledge for Life’ by the Department of Education, Government of Assam, students of Block and Gram Panchayat level in 33 districts of Assam will be administered oath on Dec 1. Commissioner Education Assam said, “Assam has more than 45 lakh students in 50,131 Government schools. We want children to have a healthy life and protected from the tobacco epidemic.” This initiative has been taken by the Education Department with collective support from Sambandh Health Foundation, Assam Cancer Care Foundation, Tata Trusts, Cachar Cancer Hospital, Rotary and Indian Dental Association.
The oath, as per the instructions from the Department of Education, reads “I pledge not to use tambul or tobacco in any form including smoking cigarettes, bidis, etc or chewing tobacco as Gutka etc for the rest of my life and also encourage my family and friends not to do so.”
Sambandh Health Foundation (SHF) has developed an android-based application ‘Pledge for Life.’ The schools will download a video which informs how tobacco affects one’s life and family. After sensitizing the students on tobacco consumption with the video, the students will take an oath. Sanjay Seth, Trustee & Head Tobacco Control from Sambandh Health Foundation said, “Pledge for Life campaign will create an atmosphere among students that tobacco is the most ‘uncool’ thing to consume. Research suggests that activities in which children participate are the most effective in convincing them. We applaud the Education Department of Assam in taking such a big step to protect children’s health.”
Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV) patron Dr Ashok Das said, “Number of cancer cases is on the rise and if we eliminate tobacco, we can prevent 50% of all cancers. 90% of oral and lung cancer are caused by it. Tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death. This campaign aims at preventing initiation and this is going to be really an effective step in curbing the menace of tobacco.”
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