Health deptt to start activities to declare schools tobacco-free
Post by M Peerzada on Monday, March 13, 2023
Srinagar, March 12: The Health Department Kashmir will initiate different kinds of activities to declare schools tobacco-free and sensitize students about the ill effects of tobacco use.
On March 09, the Tobacco Control Cell of the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir held a meeting with Director School Education Kashmir to devise a strategy in this regard.
Dr Mir Mushtaq, State Nodal Officer, National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) said they are planning some activities to be carried out under Tobacco Free Educational Institutions (ToFEI) and Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003 in schools across the valley.
“Tobacco control can be achieved by awareness against use of tobacco and implementation of COTPA and ToFEI around educational institutions,” he said.
He said under COTPA, every school has to appoint a Nodal Officer for tobacco control who can fine shopkeepers and vendors who sell tobacco and tobacco products near schools.
“There is a need of enforcement. Tobacco is putting huge economic burden on people and it has health hazards associated. Though the prevalence of smoking has decreased but we have seen over years, school children have also become habitual of smoking,” he said.
Mushtaq said the role of teachers, schools and education department is pivotal as the new generation is getting attracted towards smoking which is a challenge.
He said during the activities in schools, teachers and students will be sensitized about the provisions of COTPA and guidelines of the ToFEI.
“As we all know, tobacco is a known health hazard and is responsible for many diseases prevalent in society, particularly various cancers, cardiac diseases and many more,” he said.
The Nodal Officer also said it needs a multi-pronged strategy of different individuals, organizations and departments to coordinate and arrive at a comprehensive policy to defeat this grave issue which is going to have serious consequences if they fail to control it.
“Every school will have health clubs that will look after the health and social aspects of students particularly with reference to tobacco use. Schools will also install signage,” he said.
According to a provision in the COPTA Act, sale of tobacco or related products are banned within 100 metres of educational institutes and airports. As per the Act, the selling of loose cigarettes is prohibited but these are sold openly in markets even to minors.
As per the figures of NTCP seen by Rising Kashmir, a total of 19,877 challans were conducted in Jammu and Kashmir in the past four years.
According to officials, around 75 percent of cigarettes sale is being sold through loose cigarettes in India and every gazetted officer, according to the COTPA, is authorized to challan the person found smoking in a public place.
Officials also said all the heads of the Health Department were provided challan books and signage for enforcement but there was “no sign of implementation” on the ground.
In 2021, a survey conducted by the Union Health Ministry had revealed that Kashmir spends a whopping Rs 600 cr on the purchase of tobacco products annually with Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla districts topping the numbers.