Tribune News Service
Srinagar, August 20
The J&K Government has achieved a major success against tobacco as Leh district in the Ladakh regionhas been declared a tobacco-free zone.
To make Kashmir a smoke-free region, the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir (DHSK) under the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) started an anti-tobacco campaign in Leh early this year.
“Due to mass awareness and meetings with civil society members, religious and women groups, we have been successful in making Leh a tobacco-free zone,” Dr Rehana Kousar, in-charge, NTCP, Kashmir, told The Tribune.
However, Kousar said a major success was achieved by the involvement of women in the anti-tobacco campaign. “The Women’s Alliance is a strong lobby for social change in Leh and its members made the difference in making the region free of tobacco,” she said.
The department conducted over 30 awareness camps in schools to ensure the campaign had a long-term impact on Leh society, she said, adding vendors were sanitised to stop the sale of tobacco, particularly to minors and around schools.
Official data revealed that overall tobacco use in J&K was among 26.6 per cent of the population. Of the overall prevalence, she said at least 12 per cent use cigarettes and 3.8 per cent use bidis. Out of the total users, 41.6 per cent are men and 10.3 per cent women. The average age at daily initiation of tobacco use is 17.3 years in adults.
The exposure to second hand smoke (SHS) — the smoke inhaled involuntarily from tobacco being smoked by others — was highest at 68 per cent in J&K, she said.
Health officials warned that eight lakh people affected directly or indirectly by smoking would die an untimely death due to serious illnesses, like heart attack and cancer.
Officials said the smokers in J&K spend Rs 514 on cigarettes per month against the rest of India average of Rs 399.
Looking at the success in Leh, the Health Department is all set to replicate the campaign in other districts to get rid of tobacco.
DHSK Director Dr Saleem-ur Rehman said the anti-tobacco campaign would cover other areas for which public support was needed. “It is not only assignment and motivation of enforcement agencies, but ensuring public awareness and political will to ensure tobacco-free Kashmir,” Rehman said.
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