Public Health Foundation of India has been awarded $ 5 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to strengthen the National Tobacco Control Program on pilot basis in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

These two States have been selected for the pilot project as they are the largest producers and consumers of tobacco.

The program will be subsequently scaled up across India.

Geeta Kiran, joint Director of Medical Education said that this is a three year programe aimed at taking up community campaign against tobacco use. The foundation will create awareness in Indian languages and will also be working with beedi and cigarette industries.

Tobacco farmers would be informed about the alternative crops or alternative livelihood available to them, she added.

While six districts in Andhra Pradesh will be covered under the Pilot project including three in coastal Andhra Pradesh, two in Telangana and one in Rayalseema, five districts will be covered in Gujarat.

Dr. Srikrishna Ramachandra, professor at Indian Institute of Public Health said that currently the usage of tobacco is between 15 and 19 per cent among men and less than 5 percent among woman which includes use of tobacco related products, passive smoking. Despite warnings, there is hardly any effect on smokers, he said.