Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: While the use of tobacco and tobacco products in Western countries is showing a fall, it is alarming that their use is increasing in India, V. Shanta, director, Cancer Institute, has said.

Speaking at a workshop on `100 per cent smoke-free environment,' Dr. Shanta said after years of intervention and fighting the tobacco lobby, mortality rates due to cancers caused by smoking and using other tobacco products had dropped.

"Unless we start now in India, we will soon have a large youth population affected by disease."

The only way to generate awareness about the harmful effects of smoking was to ensure that each and every individual was reached with the message. Unless the government and media pitched in, it would be difficult to take the topic to the larger population.

The workshop was organised for representatives of auto drivers, according to E. Vidhubala, Principal Investigator in the WHO and Central Government-sponsored Tobacco Cessation Clinic at the Cancer Institute.

These `master' trainers would train other colleagues, even their clients, and spread awareness about the need for creating smoke-free, healthy environments.

Publicity material including posters, handouts and bills were given to each participant, to be displayed prominently and also distributed. They would have to document their work over the rest of the month in order to produce a report at the end of the period. Three best performers would be awarded.

Dr. Vidhubala also urged the government to ensure that the Central specification on displaying pictorial warning signs on tobacco product packages was implemented stringently.

Health Minister KKSSR Ramachandran said it was a good idea to use the auto driver as a vehicle for communicating the message about smoking and cancer. Prevention was the only way to tackle non-communicable diseases and lifestyle modifications were important. Mr. Ramachandran congratulated Dr. Shanta and her team at the Cancer Institute for not only serving people already affected by cancer but also launching a number of programmes aimed at prevention of the condition.