The school education department has issued an order preventing students or staff in its schools from participating in events sponsored by tobacco manufacturers.

School teachers or students have been clearly told that participating in, or receiving gifts (in the form of stationery or books) from tobacco manufacturers is prohibited. This was done after the State Tobacco Cell pointed out instances of sponsorship of competitions by companies that also sell tobacco. “We requested the school education department to regulate this rampant sponsorship, and they were prompt in responding,” said P. Vadivelan, State Tobacco Control Officer.

“'This form of sponsorship clearly comes under the category of surrogate advertising. Clearly, the notebooks or stationery contain information about the companies’ activities or provide a link to its website, where they can get all details,” explained Prasanna Kannan, consultant, State Tobacco Cell.

The gifts mostly are notebooks, pencils, pens. In most cases, even teachers or headmasters have no clue that the gift comes from the factories of a company that makes cigarettes or other tobacco products, she added. Access to information on tobacco products at a school-going age has been shown to have an influence on the youth, leading to smoking, she added.

Anti-tobacco control authorities are also excited about the fact that the order from the education department replicates almost exactly, the wordings specified in the International Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It is most likely the first time that such an order has been issued in the country, Dr. Vadivelan said .

The order has been circulated to all government and government-aided schools in the state and headmasters and teachers are being trained on how to recognise surrogate advertising and shield students from it. The chief education officers of each district will also receive training, as any sponsorship in government schools must be cleared by them first, Ms. Prasanna added.

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