The SHF inform there are 8,000 deaths caused by tobacco every year in Meghalaya

Shillong, May 24: The World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is observed on 31st of May every year to raise awareness on harms caused by tobacco products to people, public health, communities and the environment.

The WNTD was created in 1987 by the Member States of the World Health Organisation (WHO). This year, the WNTD theme is “Tobacco: threat to our environment”, highlighting that, throughout its lifecycle, tobacco pollutes the planet and damages the health of all people.

In Meghalaya, the Departments of Education and Health, Government of Meghalaya in collaboration with Sambandh Health Foundation (SHF), a Gurugram-based NGO are running a campaign to create awareness on how tobacco is damaging our environment.

The campaign required every school to do two activities: a Rally against tobacco and a Signature campaign. Each school has to get its students to create awareness in the community on the current theme of the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). Schools and students have taken up both activities with great enthusiasm.

Dr. Lana Nongbri, State Nodal Officer, National Tobacco Control Program, said, “Tobacco is not only harmful to human beings, it is damaging to the environment. The very high usage of tobacco causes death and disease and puts a very heavy burden on families.

The Tobacco Free Educational Institutions (ToFEI) Program works with youth and will change the attitude of our population towards tobacco and reduce usage.

It has been a record-breaking WNTD in Meghalaya this year. Schools from every block in all the districts of Meghalaya are participating and students are sensitising thousands of people in the community.

This campaign will surely make a dent in the alarming levels of tobacco use in Meghalaya. 47% of adults in Meghalaya use tobacco and even among 13-15 year olds, it was found by the Global Tobacco Youth Survey (GYTS-2019) that 34% use tobacco.” In April, the Health Department sent memes on WhatsApp to the Principals & Teachers of all schools on how tobacco harms the environment.

There were memes on how one tree is burnt to cure the tobacco used for every 300 cigarettes; how cigarette butts create litter, are not biodegradable and spread the harmful chemicals contained in cigarettes; how people chew tobacco and then spit in public places. Teachers shared such materials with students.

The signature campaign required students to convey these messages about tobacco’s harm to the environment with family, friends and neighbours and get their signatures. Schools are organising rallies in public places like market places, bus terminus, etc.

Schools which did both the activities with maximum student participation are eligible for winning Awards. Awards are given by the National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP), Meghalaya for each category of School – Primary, Upper Primary, Secondary and Higher Secondary.

Awards will be given for the best school in each category in each Block. The block-level winners are eligible for district-level awards and the best from each district will vie for State-level awards. The State winners will be felicitated on World No Tobacco Day.

Dr. Ashima Sarin, Director, Sambandh Health Foundation, “this campaign is a part of the Tobacco Free Educational Institutions (ToFEI) program being run in the state, because of which students are now taking the lead against tobacco.

There are 8,000 deaths caused by tobacco every year in Meghalaya and the State has some of the highest cancer rates in the country. The ToFEI campaign is becoming a game changer for reducing tobacco usage. Full support has been there from the Deputy Commissioners and Police in all Districts of Meghalaya.”

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