Pledge for life: Schoolchildren join campaign, say ‘no’ to tobacco

Pledge for Life’ campaign is all about saving children from initiating tobacco use. Children are informed about the ill-effects of tobacco and administered an oath that they will not touch tobacco and also discourage their family and friends from doing so

#WorldNoTobaccoDay: 40% of cancer cases in India caused due to tobacco use

  • Maharashtra has 2.4 crore tobacco users and an estimated 72,000 die every year due to tobacco use.
  • Sambandh Health Foundation’s Deepak Chhibba said according to Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2016-17, in Maharashtra state 26.6% of the population people (aged 15+) consume tobacco in some form.
  • Of these 17 lac (1.9%) smoke cigarettes and another 17 lac (1.9%) smoke bidi, but 24.4% (2.2 crore) use smokeless tobacco.
  • 530 children are initiate tobacco usage every day. There are very few interventions to stop usage of smokeless tobacco.

The state government is working alongside with Sambandh Health Foundation (SHF), Tata Trusts, Caring Friends and Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV) to ensure the success of this campaign.

The campaign has been initiated as there has been a rise in tobacco consumption among schoolchildren. While there are laws to ban the use and consumption of tobacco they are not implemented properly. One such law is the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA).  If the Education Department along with the police do firm enforcement of COTPA Act, then control on sale and consumption of tobacco is possible.

The ‘Pledge for Life’ campaign has been started in the state to make schools tobacco-free and make teachers and students say ‘No to Tobacco’.

As a first activity under this campaign, an anti-tobacco film was shown to teachers and students on the occasion of World Head and Neck Cancer Day on July 27. This was followed by an anti-tobacco pledge, which was taken by 26.5 lakh students from over 24,000 schools in eight districts of Maharashtra.

According to the Education Department, 851,947 students in Jalgaon district, 558,393 students in Nashik district, 380,000 students in Amravati district, 237,000 students in Akola district, 204,000 students in Nagpur district, 197,192 students in Chandrapur district, 140,275 students in Buldhana district and 76,984 students in Wardha district participated in this campaign.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Deepak Chhibba from Sambandh Health Foundation, said, “There is an increase in tobacco use among schoolchildren. As tobacco products are easily available outside schools in bidi shops, school areas must be tobacco-free zones. Although, may schools have been declared as tobacco-free under this movement there are many place where tobacco use is prevalent. So, we are continuing this movement by including schoolchildren in it. These children will spread awareness about the ill-effects of tobacco consumption among their family and friends.”

He added, “As per WHO’s MPOWER and Indian law COTPA 2003, all educational institutes should be tobacco-free that is there should be no sale or usage on campus. He added that under COTPA every educational institute should have warning signage. Maharashtra Education Department has been working diligently to make this happen. Outside the campus, sale within 100 yards is prohibited under COTPA and this law needs to be enforced by the police.

Dr Ankit Shah, a cancer specialist at Ruby Hospital Pune, said, “If children are included in this campaign they will become aware about the negative effects of tobacco and restrain themselves from using tobacco products. Children can be saved from this addiction with prevention strategies. He said that Rs 1,04,500 crores is spent annually in India to treat diseases caused by tobacco. Tobacco impacts every organ of a human body.”