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Editorial

Education Begins at Home

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By The Editorial Team Updated: May 30, 2023 11:33 pm

Much has been said about the ill-effects of tobacco consumption, both smoke and smokeless items. In an attempt to curb its consumption in the country, the central government has introduced several measures including mandatory use of specified health warning labels in the form of pictures and text, besides framing laws restricting sale of such products in public places and near educational institutions while slapping 28% GST, taking the total tax on cigarettes to 52.5%. However, this tax rate is much lower than WHO’s recommendation of 75% tariff on retail price of tobacco products. What is worrying is the fact that people continue to consume tobacco product despite selling at a much higher rate than the production cost. The high consumption rate among teenagers is even more alarming. According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4), which was conducted in 2019 to find out tobacco use pattern among school-going children aged 13-15 years across India, the prevalence rate was 8.5% — 9.6% boys, 7.4% girls. The study found out that nearly one-fifth of students had admitted to using tobacco products and 2.8% had used e-cigarettes. The state-wise tobacco consumption pattern among students in various Indian states and Union Territories (UTs) showed that the Northeast region has an extremely high prevalence rate with Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram ranking the highest at 57.9%, followed by Nagaland (42.6%), Meghalaya (33.6%) and Sikkim (24.8%), while Manipur (19.5%) and Assam (11.9%) are also among the top 10. Tripura (7.6%) is the only state in the region that has a prevalence rate below the national average.

These figures are not surprising, especially in the case of northeastern states considering the high consumption of tobacco products by people cutting across all ages. Paan (spit) stains on the pavements and walls, cigarette butts and pan masala packages on the streets are testaments of high consumption prevalence in the region. This is despite the enactment of tobacco control laws like the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003; Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Act, 2019; and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 which penalises those selling tobacco products to minors with a jail term of seven years and a fine of INR 1 lakh. The government of Nagaland too has taken measures to curb tobacco use in the state through awareness campaigns and declared healthcare centres as tobacco-free zones earlier this year, and all schools across the state as tobacco-free starting May 1. The prevalence of tobacco use among school-going children in the country has declined by 42% over the last decade, as per the GYTS report but much needs to be done on the ground, especially in the Northeast as scenes of students in school uniform buying tobacco products are not an uncommon sight. Effective tobacco control measures including strict enforcement of the existing laws and awareness at school level will go a long way in addressing the issue. Parents too should act responsibly by ensuring that children are not exposed to second-hand smoke. Some parents and elders even ask kids to buy tobacco products for them. Such irresponsible acts that can send a wrong message about tobacco consumption to minors have to stop. Anti-tobacco campaign should begin at home.

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By The Editorial Team Updated: May 30, 2023 11:33:16 pm
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