The streets on Sunday were inundated with placards like ‘Stop smoking live long’ and ‘Help yourself to beat cancer’, as the city hosted numerous anti-tobacco drives on the occasion of World No-Tobacco Day. Various rallies were taken out in Kolkata to highlight the dangers of consuming tobacco.
During the day, organisations tried out various initiatives to curb the use of tobacco in the city. Even political leaders stepped in to encourage and support the cause.
Campaigns organised by ‘Soumen’s Workout’, an organisation which spearheads anti-tobacco campaigns, started at 11am at Esplanade. BJP state president Rahul Sinha flagged off the walk.
“This (tobacco) is a poison that is making many youths of the society sick. I am always behind such noble campaigns and I am hopeful that we will work together to obliterate it completely from our lives,” said Sinha.
Another unique campaign saw around 50 school students hanging placards by their neck with anti-smoking and anti-tobacco messages written on them. The uniqueness of this campaign was that students gave candies to passers-by on the condition that they spit out the guthka which was in their mouth.
“Around 1,500 candies were exchanged when the people agreed to throw out the poison from their mouth. It is a very positive sign. The mindset has to change," said D Ashish, secretary of the Medical bank." The shops outside schools sell cigarettes, bidis, pan masalas and many such products. How will the students not fall for it then,” he asked.
A joint initiative by the Indian Dental Association (IDA) and Narayana Superspeciality Hospital saw a rally to raise awareness against diseases caused by tobacco. The rally to Rani Rashmoni road started from R Ahmed Dental College and Hospital in Moulali at 2 pm.
“Oral cancer has been on the rise. Oral cancer constitutes about 40% of all forms of cancer in our country and 30% of them stem from the use of tobacco. People from all sections of the society are victims,” said Dr Raju Biswas, state secretary of IDA. “IDA would organise regular health talks, check-up camps and give suggestions to the state government, which would help in the implementation of the anti-tobacco laws in West Bengal,” Biswas added.
India is home to one of the largest number of tobacco consumers in the world and West Bengal contributes largely to that. According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2010(GATS), 36.3% of the population of West Bengal uses tobacco in some form. This would amount to as many as 2.5 crore of people.
“In states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, although gutka is banned, no strict measures have been taken to keep the law effective whereas in states like Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Goa, the use of gutkha is banned and put into effect efficiently,” said Biswas.
“Smokeless chewing of tobacco like gutkha, khaini, paan and so on leaves people of Bengal majorly vulnerable various ailments. Also, cigarettes, bidis and alcohol increase the risk further. Almost in all cases, the patient comes for check up due to toothache and finds he is in a pre-cancerous state. This needs to change,” said Dr Suman Malik, a radiation oncologist at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital.