RAISING PUBLIC AWARENESS

Editorial GREATER JAMMU

As the world observes ‘No Smoking Awareness Day’ today, the second Wednesday of this month, the day is also being observed across the nation including the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Today is the day to reiterate the commitment to continuously spread awareness about the significance of ‘No Smoking’ for human health across the globe. It is pertinent to mention here that WHO and public health champions around the world are marking ‘World No Tobacco Day’ this year by focusing on the many ways in which tobacco threatens the environment we live in. The 2022 global campaign aims to raise public awareness about the environmental impact of the entire tobacco cycle, from its cultivation, production and distribution to the toxic waste it generates. The campaign will also aim to expose the tobacco industry’s effort to green wash its reputation and to make its products more appealing by marketing them as environmentally friendly. Recalling the history of the day, the first ‘No Smoking Day’ was observed on Ash Wednesday in 1984 and it now takes place every year on the second Wednesday in March. The day carries greater significance for India especially in view of the fact that this nation has the world’s largest children population which remains more susceptible to be attracted towards smoking as they feel that it is a factor leading to personality enhancement. However, there is no need to be pessimistic about deviating the people especially children away from smoking provided that no smoking campaign is carried on vigorously by all the stakeholders in the society. It is pertinent to mention here that research conducted by an NGO in UK following the 2009 campaign till date reveals that 1 in 10 smokers quit smoking on ‘No Smoking Day’. While the main objective of observing this day is to spread awareness about the dangerous consequences of smoking upon the health of the people both active as well as passive smokers, at the same time it is a day to review the ground situation i.e. the results achieved during the past year in persuading smokers to give up smoking and non smokers to stay away from this hazardous indulgence. As of today smoking evil continues to multiply especially 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. Unfortunately children being the most vulnerable group, especially the marginalized 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. The situation among the adults too is not good as it is the adult smokers whom the children start emulating right from their childhood. 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 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 as well as law enforcement. In this regard both the NGOs as well as individuals need to play a vital role by intensifying their endeavours towards spreading massive awareness. Awareness programmes need to be made a regular feature and the issue be made part of the curriculum in educational institutions at primary as well as secondary level. While presently there are quite few NGOs involved in the noble campaign in J&K UT and they do conduct awareness programmes but these are far less, keeping in view the enormity of the menace. Moreover the enforcement agencies need to shun their sluggish approach and show their presence and action on ground and last but not the least ensure that the most vulnerable group i.e. the children do not have access to tobacco and its products. So let all the stakeholders in the society ensure proactive participation and turn the campaign against smoking into a movement. After all, it is a matter of Nation’s Health.