Easy availability of tobacco to world’s largest children population in India besides lack of proper enforcement of law by the concerned agencies has multiplied the smoking evil among children to epidemic proportions more so in the lower socio economic strata. A survey by an NGO indicates that five million Indian children are addicted to tobacco with one third of them likely to die a painful death due to this addiction. According to this survey every day, more than 55,000 children in India below the age group of 15 years try tobacco for the first time. Unfortunately children being the most vulnerable group, especially the marginal- ized children in India who are severely deprived and have very little support from their families or society become the easiest targets for tobacco companies to boost their sales.
While the smoking addiction among the children in India is a cause of great concern, the situation among the adults too is not good as it is the adult smokers whom the children start emulating right from their childhood. With situation being alarming across the nation the Union Territory of J&K is no exception and most probably the menace here is on a high- er scale as compared to other parts of the country. While the smokers of all ages put their lives to great risk, at the same time the non smokers are put to all the more risk on account of passive smoking as it is even more hazardous than smok- ing itself. Though laws have been framed to deal with this menace, yet the results on ground are almost zero. Despite Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition) Act (COTPA) in force people can be seen puffing at all the pub- lic 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. While awareness pro- grammes are conducted by both government as well as non-government agencies, in this regard regular awareness campaigns by the Health Department assume greater signif- icance. People especially children need to be made aware about the fact that smoking one cigarette a day results in risk of heart disease that is halfway between that of a smok- er 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.
Such type of awareness programmes will definitely leave their impact on young minds and at the same time the level of the programmes would be more beneficial to the medical fraternity especially the cardiologists dealing with such patients. 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 smoking are concerned. These awareness programmes need to be made a regular feature and even be made part of the curriculum in educational institutions at primary as well as secondary level. Realizing that the menace can be overcome only through greater awareness and people’s participation in the anti-tobacco programme let all the stake- holders in the society ensure proactive participation and turn the campaign against smoking into a movement and not relent till the UT becomes a smoking free zone.