Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Government will take the lead in the campaign for making the State tobacco-free, K K Shylaja, Health Minister of the State, said on ‘World No Tobacco Day’ (WNTD), while announcing several steps in that direction.
Highlighting the significant achievement of over 8 per cent reduction in overall tobacco use among adults in the State, as revealed in the second edition of the World Health Organisation’s Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS -2), the Minister said all Government health institutions, including those in the AYUSH sector, will be made tobacco free. She said ‘tobacco cessation clinics’ will be started in all family health centres and AYUSH clinics, besides integrating tobacco control with ‘Swaas’ under the ‘Aardram’ programme of the Government.
“Increasing use of tobacco products amongst our youngsters is an area of concern,” the Minister said, and called for a war against drug-laced candies that are now easily available for students and youngsters.
Sanju V Samson, international cricketer from Kerala who was the star attraction at the event – organised jointly by Government agencies and civil society groups to mark the day – affirmed that he will refuse any tobacco products endorsement offers, triggering a loud applause from the audience. He called upon children to develop the mental strength to be able to say a strict ‘No’ to tobacco. Sanju also led a pledge against tobacco use and appealed to all participants to put the oath into practice. “Pledge to protect at least two of your friends from tobacco,” he exhorted the youngsters present.
P Vijayan, Inspector General of Police, pointed out that India has over 40 crore children below the age of 15. “If groomed correctly, these youngsters can be shining ambassadors for the country, else India would have to take the blame for creating a generation with eroded values,” he cautioned.
A committed tobacco control advocate, Vijayan added that it is important to give the needed support to youngsters prone to tobacco use, rather than condemning them.
Dr. Asha Kishore, Director, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), spoke about the association of tobacco use with stroke and cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Paul Sebastian, Director, Regional Cancer Centre, also emphasised the importance of targeted tobacco control interventions for youngsters. Dr. V R Raju, Director of Health Services (in-charge), delivered the welcome address and Dr. V Ramankutty, Director, Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies (AMCHSS), proposed the vote of thanks.
In the technical session held earlier, experts spoke about tobacco problems in Kerala as revealed by GATS 2, control opportunities for the Government and the civil society, problems in educational institutions, role of social media and tobacco industry tactics. In line with this year’s theme of ‘Tobacco use and heart disease’, the technical session discussed how tobacco use endangers health of the heart and about the Government’s plans for augmenting tobacco control. Findings of a recent study assessing the sales and purchase patterns of cigarettes and other tobacco products in three cities of Kerala were also presented.
Dr. K R Thankappan, Professor Emeritus, AMCHSS; Dr. S Sivasankaran, Professor of Cardiology, SCTIMST; Dr. AS Pradeep Kumar, former Additional Director of Health Services; Dr. Kamala Rammohan, Member, Health Action by People; Dr. Manu M S, State Consultant, National Tobacco Control Programme; R S Shibu, Joint Director, DPI; Dr. Nelson Joseph, Info Clinic; and Saju Itty, Executive Director, Kerala Voluntary Health Services spoke. Dr. Sanjeev Nair, Associate Professor, Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram moderated the technical session.