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INDIA India marks World No Tobacco Day

Mumbai protests against tobacco and its perils

By Pamela Raghunath, Correspondent
May 31, 2012
Image Credit: Courtesy: Salaam Bombay foundation

Mumbai: On the eve of World No Tobacco Day, Mumbaikars came out to express their choice in favour of good health and to protest against tobacco and its perils.

School children along with corporate czars and civic authorities joined hands to paint the city’s BEST buses with tobacco control messages in a public awareness drive organised by Salaam Bombay Foundation (SBF), an NGO, at Marol bus depot in suburban Andheri and the Bombay International School.

The BEST bus painting drive is part of a two-day tobacco control awareness programme initiated by SBF with school children from G D Somani School and Bombay International School painting buses with messages and also urging passersby to be tobacco-free. Skits and dances are also performed to encourage people to quit consuming tobacco. Devika Chadha, Programme Director, SBF, said, “We feel BEST buses are one of the best ways to propagate social messages since they move to every nook and corner of the city.”

A study released by SBF on May 29 revealed that more than 60 per cent of 200 government and civic-run schools surveyed had a tobacco-selling outlet within 100 yards, despite the civic body’s rule that tobacco products could not be sold near schools. Chadha said that the survey revealed that tobacco products like gutkha, bidis and cigarettes are easily available for the children.

According to Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi of Tata Memorial Hospital, the average age at which children start smoking in India is 16 while the average age they start consuming chewable tobacco products is 8-12 years. Mouth cancer can develop in 10-15 years in the latter case, he said and added that “we need to save our children.”

This year’s World No tobacco Day, being jointly observed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Cancer Patients’ Aid Association (CPAA) and WHO, will focus on the need to expose and counter the tobacco industry’s brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control because of the serious danger they pose to public health. According to the WHO, tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death, killing six million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second hand smoke. Unless the world acts, the WHO warns that tobacco will kill up to 8 million people by 2030, of which more than 80 per cent will live in low and middle-income countries.

Anita Peter, CPAA director, says, “One of the main grouses we have against the tobacco industry is that it injects large philanthropic contribution into social programmes worldwide to create a positive public image under the guise of corporate social responsibility.”

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