A burning issue

ANTI-THIS and anti-that days have a sting of effectiveness inasmuch as they serve as salutary reminders of the dangers lurking in certain grooves of thinking and habits. Tomorrow is another `day of battle'. It's Anti-tobacco Day, the world over.

In Tamil Nadu, the campaign against tobacco has received a shot in the arm with the Government bringing in a legislation banning smoking in public places. How many bastions can this weapon fell in the fight against tobacco?

"By force of law, only passive smoking could be checked. Law empowers a person to question his neighbour's smoking if it directly affects him. The other dimensions of smoking — active smoking and core smoking — elude the reach of the law. These two forms of smoking could be curbed only if there is an attitudinal change in the smoker. Educational measures have to be adopted to that end. Core smoking is done unwittingly by those who are close to a smoker, say, spouse and children. The foetus of a woman who smokes, is a core smoker," says Dr. P. Krishnamurthy, Director, Department of Public Health.

"Another disturbing trend we notice is a rise in the number of female smokers in India," says Krishnamurthy. According to a report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the babies of mothers who smoke weigh, on an average 200 gm less at birth than those of non-smokers.

It is easier to refuse something before you have tasted it than after you have tasted it. For a "smokeless" tomorrow, the ideal place to start would be young minds. It is there one could effectively sow the seeds of a "tobacco-free" future.

"We incorporate anti-smoking messages in our school health programmes," says the Director.

Imbibing the value of this strategy, Cancer Institute along with Sanctuary, an "emotional support group" functioning within the institute, has devised a mutant of it. It will involve youngsters in disseminating information on the ills of smoking, to adults.

On the morning of May 31, these youngsters will line up near Malar Hospital. They will stop vehicles and hand over pamphlets and T-shirts blaring out anti-smoking messages.

And for those of you who have realised that smoking is a drain on your health, but don't have the will power to say "no" to it, there's help, free of charge.

Tobacco Cessation Clinic (TCC), set up within the Cancer Institute, is an alembic for smokers who `hate' smoking. A product of a project funded by WHO, the TCC employs a two-pronged approach to wean a smoker away from the poison stick. One involves psychotherapy and the other, pharmacotherapy.

"We tell the smoker the deleterious changes that smoking subjects his system to and also present the benefits that accrue from quitting it. Many times, that's enough to do the trick. In cases where the addiction is intense, medical support is provided," says Dr. Rohini Premkumari.

"We do not counsel the smoker alone. Even his family members are involved in the exercise. We also offer long-term follow-up action," she says.

There are 12 such TCCs in the country. Such clinics in the U.K. and the U.S. have been success stories. WHO will be expanding the number of TCCs in India, depending on the success of the existing clinics.

The Tobacco Cessation Clinic can be contacted at V-I- Block, Room No. 19, Cancer Institute, No. 38, Sardar Patel Road, Adyar.

The Act says...

THE TAMIL Nadu Prohibition of Smoking and Spitting Act, 2002, bans spitting and smoking in "places of public work and use", which include religious places, cinema halls, amusement centres, beaches, commercial and government offices and auditoria.

The generic term `smoking' covers smoking of tobacco in the form of cigarette, cigar, beedi or pipe, wrapper or any other instrument.

Spitting is defined as "voluntary ejection of saliva from the mouth after chewing tobacco products or ejection of mucus from the nose after inhalation of snuff".

People putting out advertisements on public vehicles and in "places of public work and use" promoting smoking or chewing of tobacco products, and those selling, storing or distributing them within 100 metres from educational institutions would attract a fine up to Rs. 500 for first-time offence.

Second-time and subsequent offenders are subject to imprisonment up to three months or a minimum fine of Rs. 500 or a maximum fine of Rs. 1,000 or both.

Any authorised officer or police officer, not below the rank of sub-inspector, and any driver or conductor of a public service vehicle may "eject" any person who contravenes any provision of the Act.

Some facts

— The most noxious components of tobacco smoke are tar, carbon-monoxide and nicotine.

— Tobacco is more addictive than hashish.

— Around eight lakh deaths are caused by smoking in India every year.

— Smoking is associated with 90 per cent of deaths due to lung cancer and 35 per cent of deaths due to heart attack.

— All over the world, tobacco claims the lives of four million smokers every year. By 2030, the toll is likely to rise to 10 million.

Courtesy: Tobacco Cessation Clinic.

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