LET’S COMBAT COLLECTIVELY

The laxity on the part of enforcement agencies in the state of Jammu and Kashmir stood yet again exposed after the Governor N.N. Vohra had to issue directions to the administration for ensuring strict enforcement of Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003. In a direction issued today the Governor ordered the administration to fully gear up for ensuring that anti-tobacco information is disseminated among general masses in every corner of the State. It is an acknowledged fact that easy availability of tobacco besides lack of proper enforcement of law by the concerned agencies has multiplied the smoking evil especially among children to epidemic proportions more so in the lower socio economic strata. Besides, consumption of tobacco and its products is a major cause of cancer of mouth and throat. Smoking one cigarette a day results in a risk of heart disease that is halfway between that of a smoker and a non-smoker and that the diseases that can be caused by smoking include vascular stenosis, lung cancer, heart attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Since smoking remains the second largest risk factor for early death and disability therefore it is necessary to further reduce its impact which would be possible by intensifying tobacco control efforts and discouraging this menace at all levels in the state. It is a fact that despite Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition) Act (COTPA) in force people can be seen puffing at all the public and other places prohibited by law, courtesy the inaction on the part of enforcement agencies. In such a situation it seems that more thrust needs to be shifted to awareness programmes for which both the NGOs as well as individuals need to play a vital role. Presently there are quite few NGOs involved in the noble campaign in J&K and they do conduct awareness programmes but these are far less, keeping in view the enormity of the menace. Such type of awareness programmes will definitely leave impact on young minds. To achieve the desired results in order to target the vulnerable lot i.e. children there is a need to meticulously frame the programmes that could quite easily target the intended lot so far as creating awareness about the hazards of tobacco be it chewing or smoking are concerned. As rightly emphasized by the Governor, all of us must fight it individually and together, on all fronts. He has been instrumental in directing the administrative machinery to ensure that no person is allowed to smoke in public places except in the special smoking zones in hotels, restaurants and at airports besides stressing upon the need to effectively check advertisements of tobacco products as the same are prohibited under the law. Undoubtedly there is a need for launching a vibrant publicity and awareness campaign among the masses, especially youth, to discourage the consumption of tobacco products. This initiative would definitely help in improving the health of the younger generation. However, such awareness campaigns can be made much more effective by the participation of NGOs. It is pertinent to mention here that most often it has been found that an NGO namely J&K Voluntary Health & Development Association remains in news for highlighting the dangerous effects of cigarette smoking for which it received accolades from the Governor too. What is required today is that more NGOs come forward to work relentlessly for this cause and support the endeavour of the Governor. It is expected that civil society and non-profit organizations will respond instantaneously to the Governor’s clarion call to them to join hands to collectively combat this menace.