TIME TO ‘QUIT TOBACCO’

With the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ being observed today, it is right time to reiterate our commitment towards eradication of the tobacco menace from the society by adopting proactive measures. It needs to be acknowledged that despite making strenuous efforts for eradication of tobacco menace, the problem continues to exist at large especially in this troubled Union Territory of J&K that is just trying to come out of the worst phase of over three decades of militancy during which the youth, especially the students’ community was the worst victim. Though a lot of efforts have been made from time to time to increase the educational awareness on the issues, be it the ill-effects of tobacco or the need to make the society tobacco-free, we have so far failed to achieve the desired results. On the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ this year, WHO has chosen the theme as “Quit Tobacco” highlighting the necessity to totally abdicate tobacco in the interest of one’s lungs and in order to stay safe against other co-related cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including stroke, which cumulatively are the world’s leading causes of death. It is pertinent to mention here that last year WHO had rightly chosen the theme “Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use”. It is pertinent to mention here that alongwith the previous year’s agenda being carried forward, it is time to further strengthen the fight against tobacco use by vigorously pursuing the agenda under this year’s theme. The theme has been selected after meticulous analysis of the ground situation. It is an acknowledged fact that the tobacco industry has been deliberately adopting various tactics to attract youth to tobacco products. As a result of this ,each year, over 7 million tobacco users die of tobacco-attributable diseases. Internal industry documents have disclosed that their researches and approaches target the young generation, from product design to marketing campaigns, so as to replace the loss of consumers due to tobacco-attributable deaths, with new young consumers. WHO has been emphasizing time and again that the tobacco industry manipulates youth with different strategies, including use of youth-appealing flavours, attractive product designs, promotion claims of “harm reduction”, sponsoring celebrity/ influencers and brand events, point-of-sale marketing at vending outlets frequented by children, and indirect marketing, etc. Today there is a need for global counter-marketing campaign to unmask the myths and expose the manipulation tactics of the tobacco and nicotine industries, especially those which deceive the youth; Equip the youth with the knowledge of the tobacco and nicotine industry’s intention and tactics, and empower the influencers to protect the youth and fight against the ‘Big Tobacco’ ingress. This holds much more significance for India as the youth constitute a substantial proportion of its population. In such a situation, various stakeholders especially the health sector alongwith the NGOs, are expected to initiate feasible actions and measures so that key audiences including governments and the public respond positively to do away with this health hazard. World No Tobacco Day coincides with a range of global initiatives and opportunities aimed at addressing the tobacco epidemic and its impact of public health, particularly in causing the death and suffering of millions of people globally. Keeping in view this year’s theme, it is necessary to focus on enhancing the will power of active smokers so that they decide to quit smoking in a one go for all times to come. It is hoped that the authorities in governance along with all the stakeholders including the NGOs initiate massive efforts in the direction of making the people aware about the fact that tobacco users are also likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19. This needs to be supported by sensitizing them with the requisite information so that they recognize the tactics engaged by tobacco and related industries especially to attract younger people towards addictive products besides empowering the youth with the knowledge to repulse these deceitful manipulations. This is the best way to ensure that coming generations are timely protected from the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke. It is the right time for all the smokers across the globe to ‘Quit Tobacco’.