Tobacco control needs to be pursued like mission: Vardhan

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New Delhi, Jun 24 (PTI) Tobacco use is so interwoven in our society that untiring efforts are required to fight this epidemic and tobacco control needs to be pursued like a mission and a social movement, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday.

These remarks were made by Vardhan as he addressed a virtual event to highlight 25 years of global tobacco control progress. The event was part of the year-long celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a statement issued by the health ministry said.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids hosted an hour-long virtual event highlighting how tobacco control movements have achieved significant declines in tobacco use in countries around the world. Elected officials and civil society leaders from five countries, which have experienced double-digit declines in tobacco use, participated in the event, the statement said.

Addressing the event, Vardhan said substantial progress has been made in India in controlling communicable diseases over the last 75 years, adding that tobacco use is a leading cause of premature, NCD-associated mortality and morbidity, which is a growing public health challenge.

'Tobacco use is so interwoven in our society that untiring efforts are required to successfully control this epidemic.

'Our efforts in India to curtail tobacco use are aimed at reaching our entire population of 1.3 billion (130 crore), to make each segment aware of its ill-effects and associated risks,' he was quoted as saying in the statement.

In the last seven years, the strong political will and the concerted targeted action by the government have contributed to substantial achievements in tobacco control, the minister said.

Displaying large warnings covering 85 per cent area on the packs of tobacco products, introduction of a dedicated helpline for assisting people to quit tobacco, combatting the menace of e-cigarettes through a statute on prohibition of electronic cigarettes and similar devices, regulation of display and use of tobacco products in films and television programmes are among the various steps that have been taken to generate awareness and advance tobacco control, the statement said.

'Tobacco control needs to be pursued like a mission, a social movement and a noble cause, a cause with which we can live, identify and do something worthwhile for humankind. We in the society can contribute a lot towards discouraging tobacco use among youth. Schools can raise awareness on the dangers of initiating nicotine and tobacco use by providing information resources and making their campuses tobacco and ENDS-free,' Vardhan said.

He further said youth groups can organise local events to engage and educate youngsters on the many harms of tobacco use, including its impact on personal finances.

Film, television and drama production companies can pledge to no longer depict tobacco or e-cigarette use. Celebrities and social influencers can reject offers of 'brand ambassadorship' and refuse sponsorship by nicotine and tobacco industries, Vardhan said, adding, 'There is too much pain in seeing young people die at an early age due to prolonged tobacco use.' 'I wish to see an outcry. Let there be rage, let there be anger against any attempt to dilute or weaken the tobacco control efforts, policy or law. I have no doubt in my mind that together we can win this battle and make a historic difference. For this, we need to play our role with the highest sense and call of duty. Let us today resolve to do this to attain the goal of a tobacco-free and a healthy world. I assure you that India is making its best efforts to play its role and take the tobacco-control leadership forward,' the health minister was quoted as saying in the statement. PTI PLB RC

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