On the eve of World No Tobacco Day, the State Health Department on Saturday launched an initiative to curb consumption of tobacco in the State.

Strengthening of Tobacco control Efforts through Innovative Partnerships and Strategies or STEPS is a three-year project in collaboration with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). Apart from Guntur and Hyderabad districts, where such efforts are already underway, STEPS will be launched in six more districts - Visakhapatnam, East Godavari, Prakasam, Karimnagar, Mahabubnagar and Kurnool.

The project will couple tobacco control programmes with better treatment and care for those suffering from diseases caused by tobacco consumption, S. Ramachandra, Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health told media persons.

Gender aspect

“This year, we will emphasise on the gender aspect of tobacco consumption,” he said. “It has peaked among men, slowly plateauing. But it is catching up among women.”

Tobacco chewing or smokeless tobacco is also high on this year's agenda. “Few people realise that it is as harmful as smoking tobacco,” Dr. Ramachandra said.

“A total ban on tobacco will not do because it continues to be a source of employment for may people,” G. Hanumanlu, State's Nodal Tobacco Control Officer, said. “First we have to find an alternative employment for everyone working in the tobacco industry.”

“We want to engage the community further through mobilisation and intervention,” Mr. Ramachandra said. “We are involving regional newspapers in the hope that they can improve tobacco controls.”

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