Image Courtesy: World Health Organization

Gangtok, May 31: The State Tobacco Control Cell under the Health and Family Welfare Department has decided to campaign against usage of tobacco/nicotine products through print and social media. Through a short rhyme “Do not spit, just quit and stay fit”, they appeal to the public to discourage tobacco smoking on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day. 

This day is one of the eight global public health campaigns undertaken by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), which include World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World Malaria Day, World Hepatitis Day and World AIDS Day. 

Global health, unless one were to search for its proper definition on the Internet, not many would realize that an entire debate surrounds the terminology itself, but the best-proposed definition is by two emeritus professors, Ruth Bonita and Rober Beaglehole, at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who define global health as “collaborative trans-national research and action for promoting health for all,” and explain that it is based on a previous definition but “has the advantage of being shorter and sharper, emphasises the critical need for collaboration, and is action-orientated.”

Image Courtesy: World Health Organization

This year, the WHO has taken to partnering with social media platforms with the #TobaccoExposed TikTok challenge to bring focus on protecting children and the youth from tobacco/nicotine industry exploitation and manipulation into the usage of their products. 

They have stated six ways that sectors around the world can help to stop this. The following are the proposed steps:

  • Schools refuse any form of sponsorship and prohibit representatives from nicotine and tobacco companies from speaking to students
  • Celebrities and influencers reject all offers of sponsorship
  • Television and streaming services stop showing tobacco or e-cigarette use on screen
  • Social media platforms ban the marketing of tobacco and related products and prohibit influencer marketing
  • Government and financial sector divest from tobacco and related industries
  • Governments ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship

India is one of the leading producers of tobacco, contributing almost Rs 11,79,498 crore employing around 45.7 million people. The sin tax that it employs on cigarettes has done little to curb the number of consumers, which stand at approximately 300 million (or 22,65,69,60,000.00, a gigantic number). 

Even in lockdowns, people who were addicted to nicotine found ways to buy and use it, even though it increases the chance of contracting the virus and in general, weakens the immune system. The sudden price hike of cigarettes did little to discourage regular urban consumers.

Young people are constantly exposed to images of people using tobacco products and cigarettes are often romanticized in novels, films or photos. The early influence of these could potentially cause them to take up the habit later on. 

Image Courtesy: World Health Organization

Mental health-wise, young people are already experiencing new forms of stress due to the changing global climate and trends, where using harmful substances for a quick release of ‘feel-good hormones’ could turn into a lifelong addiction, harming not only their bodies but the relationships around them. 

Although many would believe that a lockdown is a perfect time to quit any substance addiction, it should be noted that some would struggle greatly with the sudden withdrawal. In India, if one were to seeking assistance in quitting smoking or any other form of using tobacco products, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, in partnership with WHO and the International Telecommunications Union has started an initiative called “Be Healthy Be Mobile”, which employs mobile technology to reach out to those who sign up for the service by constantly text messaging them. 

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