Pongalipaka, a tiny village with a population of 1,632 people, will be declared a tobacco-free village in Andhra Pradesh on World No Tobacco Day on May 31.
Under a joint initiative of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and its partner NGO, Nature, all the 10 shops selling tobacco have been closed in the village since November 2011. Pongalipaka located about 48 km from the city in Madugula mandal bagged Nirmal Gram Puraskar in 2007 for maintaining good hygiene and sanitation.The villagers held a grama sabha recently and adopted a resolution to impose heavy penalty if anyone was found smoking or consuming gutka, khaini and other kinds of chewable tobacco.
“We are very happy with the outcome of our sustained campaign and we are confident that 10 more villages in the district in GK Veedhi, Anantagiri, Paderu, Atchutapuram, Chintapalle and Koyyuru mandals in the district will be become totally tobacco-free soon,” Dr. Srikrishna S. Ramachandra, Associate Professor of Indian Institute of Public Health (Hyderabad), told The Hindu on Sunday. IIPH is promoted by PHFI to create trained public health professionals.
Dr. Ramachandra along with research associates of PHFI Raghavendra Madhu and M. Mohan Rao visited Araku and other tribal areas in the district to have first-hand knowledge of anti-tobacco programme.
The campaign has been implemented for a period of four years in six districts of Andhra Pradesh and parts of Gujarat with sanction of $5million by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Apart from Visakhapatnam, the campaign is being implemented under Strengthening of Tobacco Control Efforts using Innovative Partnerships and Strategies (STEPS) project in East Godavari, Prakasham, Karimnagar, Mahabubnagar and Kurnool.
Dr. Ramachandra said through public private partnership they were involving self-help groups actively in taking up various activities to create awareness on ill-effects of tobacco consumption.
In rural and tribal areas, tobacco consumption is very high. Reverse smoking is very common in North Andhra due to the incidence of oral cancer is also increasing at alarming level. He said they were also offering counselling, conducting health talks in schools and engaging activists to convince tobacco addicts to give up the habit and sensitise vulnerable groups not to fall victim to tobacco consumption.
As part of the campaign, wall writings, display of banners and audio-visual display and extensive programmes by ‘kala jathas' (cultural troupes) are organised.