Tobacco-free status is to be conferred on 86 villages in the State shortly, Director of Public Health S. Elango said on Monday.
Addressing a capacity-building workshop for municipal commissioner/chairmen on tobacco control organised by the Smoke Free Chennai Project, State Tobacco Control Cell and the Public Health Directorate, Dr. Elango said that the Governor Surjit Singh Barnala was slated to make the declaration at a function to formally launch Chennai as a smoke-free metropolis soon.
The Coimbatore Municipal Corporation too had submitted a proposal to be considered tobacco-free with its own funds.
According to Dr. Elango, the Centre is looking to increasingly empower local bodies in implementation of Tobacco Products Control Act through the National Rural Development Scheme, which had taken up projects on mother and child health, immunisation and vector-borne diseases. A special fund was likely to be earmarked for tobacco products control measures.
Briefing local body chiefs on the history and consequences of tobacco use, Dr. Elango said tobacco claimed 1 million lives in India every year; in other words 2,500 persons died every day. Tobacco-related death toll was expected to double in the next two decades if control measures were not stepped up.
Worldwide, tobacco-related deaths aggregated 5.4 million annually and the figure was tipped to exceed 8 million by 2030. The victims were in the productive age group of 25-35 years, Dr. Elango said.
Tamil Nadu was ahead of most States in implementing the Tobacco Control Act through a set of measures such as protecting non-smoker rights, facilitating cessation of smoking, raising awareness in civil society on the ills of tobacco and preventing youth initiation into the habit, Dr. Elango said.
The government had so far collected over Rs.19 lakh as fine from an estimated 17,250 persons who violated the smoking ban in public places. V.T. Dhandapani, Regional Director of Municipal Administration, led a discussion on the creation of smoke-free municipalities.
P.M. Santhi, Medical Officer, Tindivanam, Municipality, outlined the guidelines to be followed in the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act. Cyril Alexander of the NGO MACT said it was possible to sustain smoke-free cities and towns if the government and civil society went hand-in-hand on tobacco control measures.