SHILLONG: The use of tobbaco in Meghalaya is alarming, disclosed State Nodal Officer, National Tobacco Health Program, Dr Lana Lyngdoh Nongbri ahead of the World No Tobbaco Day which falls on May 31.
In Meghalaya, the prevalence of tobacco use is 47 per cent. Among the users, 59.8 per cent are male and 34.2 per cent are female. According to GATS 2 (2016 -2017), Meghalaya ranks 5th with 47 per cent tobacco users, second in the country at 31.6 per cent in smoking form next to Mizoram and 15th in the country for smokeless forms at 20.3 per cent, revealed Dr Nongbri.
Tobacco control remains a challenge to countries having diverse populations with large population of youth, tobacco cultivation, variety of tobacco products being available and consumed, rampant tobacco industry interference, illicit trade happening in large and porous borders, limited capacity for product regulation, etc.
Sharing her keynote address on the theme of World No Tobacco Day this year, she described that for decades, the tobacco industry has deliberately employed strategic, aggressive and well resourced tactics to attract youths to tobacco and nicotine products. Their approach is a calculated one; they design things in such a way to attract a new generation of users to replace the millions who die each year, i.e., attracting the youth.
World No Tobacco Day will provide a counter marketing campaign and empower youth to engage in the fight against "Big Tobacco". This campaign will serve to debunk myths and expose marketing tactics employed by the tobacco and related industries, equip youth with knowledge about the tobacco and related industries' intentions and empower influencers (in pop culture, social media, homes, or classrooms) to protect and defend youth and catalyse change by engaging them in the fight against tobacco.
According to Dr Lana, industries are manipulating the youth through use of flavours and sleek design that are attractive to youth and the promotion of products as "reduced harm" or "cleaner" alternatives that contain nicotine in the form of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDs) such as e-cigarettes, e-pipes, e-hookahs and electronic non nicotine delivery system (ENNDS). However, many have been found to contain nicotine after testing.
Tobacco industries have also used the ways and means to increase the demand of their products in the market through celebrity/influencer sponsorship and brand sponsored contests, digital & social media advertising although countries have adopted bans but are susceptible to cross-border advertising which expose their youth to digital advertising originating from other countries.
Many a times it was seen that point of sale marketing at vendor outlets frequented by children, attractive displays in retail shops and advertising materials at eye level of children and sale of single stick cigarettes and other tobacco products near schools as a form of indirect marketing of tobacco products.
She drew her concluding remark by saying that the world cannot afford another generation deceived by the lies of the tobacco industry, which pretends to promote freedom of personal choice while really ensuring eternal profits – regardless of the millions of people that pay with their life each year.
Hence, a call for collective action is needed in pop culture, on social media, in the home, or in the classroom to reach out and connect with youths to expose the industries' manipulative tactics to create a new generation of tobacco users, she said.