[To see CNS photo gallery of this event, click here]
Are the tobacco control laws, as envisaged in the COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003) and the Ban on Smoking in Public Places being enforced and followed in the city of Lucknow? And are the citizens any wiser about the hazards of smoking and tobacco consumption? Read more
To find the ground reality, some students of Class XII of Loreto Convent College, recently did a random survey of the city of Lucknow, as part of their Environmental Education Project. They surveyed 200 persons (150 males and 50 females) of various age groups, and coming from different strata of society- -from rickshaw pullers to executives.
They traversed the entire city clicking photographs of shops/kiosks selling cigarettes and other tobacco products much within 100metres range of educational institutions. They searched in vain, for signage in schools/colleges proclaiming that smoking is prohibited in the premises. They examined the tobacco/gutkha pouches for the information printed on them, and even posed as customers and easily bought cigarette and tobacco packs, despite being less than 18 years of age.
Some of the results of this survey were startling indeed.
Although a large majority of the respondents (98.5%) had heard anti tobacco messages on television/radio, yet more than 70% of the males and 50% females were found to be users of tobacco products.
Maximum consumption was in the age group of 19-23 years (21%) and minimum in the group 49-53 years (6%).
The following points emerging from this study indicate the violation of one or more of some of the provisions of COTPA 2003.
Ban On Smoking In Public Places: 41% of the respondents confessed to have smoked in public places, but surprisingly 94% of the offenders were neither checked nor fined for this violation. More that 29% respondents said that there was no ban on smoking at their workplace.
Ban On Sale Of Tobacco Products To (and By) Minors: Out of all the minors surveyed (males and females), 81% of the males and 33% of the females were tobacco users. 76% of the people felt that it was very easy for minors to buy tobacco. In fact, more than 51% of the respondents had bought tobacco products from minors, at some time or the other.
Tobacco Products Cannot Be Sold Within A Radius Of 100yards Of Educational Institutions:
78% of the people said that they had seen tobacco shops within 100 yards radius of schools and colleges. In fact, out 36 schools/colleges which the students personally visited, 30 had one or more shops selling cigarettes and tobacco products, in some cases right next to their entry gates.
Ban On Direct And Indirect Advertising Of Tobacco Products: Out of the 20 gutkha packets of different brands studied by the students, 7 were known to be regularly advertised on television, radio, cinema halls. These were Pan Parag, Manikchand, Rajnigandha, Kamla Pasand, Rajshree and Tulsi.
But the implementation of the law seems to be stricter in case of cigarettes with none of the brands being advertised through any communication medium.
English And One Or More Indian Languages To Be Used For Health Warnings On Tobacco Packs: Only 13 out of the 20 gutkha packets had warnings in Hindi and English, with 5 of them also mentioning ‘Not for sale to minors’. The brand ‘Aadar’ has mentioned the warning in Hindi on some packs and in English on others, in contravention of the law.
Ingredients Should Be Declared On Tobacco Product Packs: Only 12 gutkha brands had mentioned some ingredients (the safe ones). The nicotine and tar content was not mentioned on any pack.
It was an eye opener for the team members to see the apathy of citizens and lackadaisical attitude of implementing authorities, for tackling this serious issue. They had their own suggestions to offer. One girl suggested that tobacco growers switch over to Jatropa plantation. This would serve a dual purpose – tobacco growers will have an alternate and economically viable crop to grow and the ominous shifting of land, currently being used to grow food crops, towards Jatropa cultivation will be controlled. At the same time we will have enough base material for bio fuels. Another girl felt that children can use their blackmail tactics upon their elders to force them to quit smoking and eating tobacco.
The students have documented the information collected in the form of survey sheet questionnaires, photographs and real specimen of cigarette and tobacco packets.
They shared their findings with the media, at a Press Conference organized in the premises of Loreto Convent College, Lucknow, and aired their views candidly.
On this occasion, Professor (Dr) Rama Kant, Head of the Surgery Department, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (CSMMU) - erstwhile King George's Medical College (KGMC), and a well known anti-tobacco crusader, had a very interactive session with the students. He commended them for this one of its kind study, and impressed upon the importance of girls being involved in the campaign against tobacco, as tobacco companies are now targeting children and women to become their potential customers. As more and more men succumb to the fatal effects of cigarettes and chewing tobacco, these companies want to woo youngsters, especially females, to have a steady supply of customers for many years to come. Their attempts have to be thwarted at all costs. This all the more important, as the health ill effects of tobacco/cigarettes manifest themselves after a prolonged time. So the user feels quite comfortable ‘for the time being’. For those addicted to tobacco/smoking, de addiction centres offer good services. But these have to be supplemented with good counselling of the patient and his/her family.
The sincere and honest efforts of the students in executing this project are commendable indeed. The survey has helped them get a deeper insight of the menace of tobacco and made them more sensitive about the need to eradicate this scourge from society. They have just touched the tip of the iceberg. Their sincere efforts need to be replicated, so that a mass ‘anti tobacco’ awareness movement is started amongst the other school/college students of the city.
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service(CNS), Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative, has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP, and teaches Physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)
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