Awareness drives focussing on women mark No Tobacco Day

New Delhi, May 31 (IANS) Awareness drives, cancer screening centres and conferences with special focus on women marked the World No Tobacco Day Monday.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, one million people lose their life because of tobacco usage in India every year. Tobacco is one of the top 10 killers in the country.

While NGOs working in the health sector raised their voices against the government’s decision to defer the new pictorial warnings on tobacco products from June 1 to Dec 1, an official of the health ministry Monday expressed doubt over the efficacy of such warnings on cigarette smokers.

‘A large number of people buy single or loose cigarettes instead of buying a packet, therefore the pictorial warning has no effect on them,’ Keshav Desiraju, additional secretary in the ministry of health and family welfare told IANS on the sidelines of a conference organised by the NGO, Voluntary Health Association of India.

‘Also, until now our focus has been to persuade the consumer to quit smoking or stop using tobacco, but we should target the tobacco manufacturers too,’ he added.

On the issue of women using tobacco, Barkha Singh of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) said: ‘We are working on a project, the Mahila Panchayat, at the grassroots level in various villages and resettlement colonies in order to persuade women to refrain from tobacco usage.’

According to an official statement from the health ministry, while only 0.5 percent women in urban areas smoke, the figure in rural areas is two percent. Further, nearly six percent women in urban areas and 12 percent women in rural areas use smokeless tobacco products.

According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) 2009, 8.3 percent girls in India in the 13-15 age group consume some form of tobacco. Around 2.4 percent girls smoke cigarettes and 7.2 percent consume other tobacco products.

Targeting youngsters, who often start smoking because of peer pressure or in an attempt to look trendy, the Fortis group of hospitals and NGOs put up posters and distributed leaflets in the Delhi University campus Monday calling on students to ‘quit tobacco and accept life’.

The Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital and Research Centre further organised free oral cancer screening camps in the capital to mark the occasion. The institute also said that it is coming up with a book which gives answers to 100 questions on cancer in a bid to spread awareness on the same.