The Assam unit of the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) is pushing for inclusion of a course on the harmful effects of tobacco and Avalon smoking in the school curriculum in order to make students aware at an early age. World Health Organisation (WHO) consultant for the state unit of NTCP, Arzoo Dutta, who is on a visit to Jorhat, told The Telegraph that the body had recently submitted a proposal to the state council of education research and training and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Assam unit.
She said both the organisations had appreciated the idea and said they would consider the same in due course of time. The anti-tobacco body felt there was an urgent need to have “some material” on the damaging effects of consumption of tobacco and its related products since Assam, along with the rest of the northeastern states, had the tradition of consuming raw tobacco with betel leaves and areca nut. As a result, the number of cancer cases along with heart and lung ailments in the Northeast was on the rise in recent times.
She said the proposal was submitted to the council and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan as the latter funded the former in a substantial way, and also to include anti-tobacco material in the curriculum.
Dutta said there had been two meetings with the authorities in this regard and the proposal had been appreciated and accepted. However, the authorities said it would take some time to implement it as many changes had been made in the school syllabi in the last academic year itself.
She said the council had also proposed to extend its quit-tobacco campaign to the community health centres, public health centres and mini-public health centres in all districts of the state.
The anti-tobacco campaign has been on in Kamrup (metro) and Jorhat districts since 2008 as part of a pilot project funded by the Centre with support from the WHO.
She said according to the plan, the health centres would also function as tobacco-cessation centres to encourage patients coming for treatment and the medical staff would explain to them about the ill-effects of tobacco. For the same purpose, a one-day training would be organised for the medical staff, including doctors and Asha (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers in the district and sub-divisional headquarters.
Dutta said the NTCP planned to invite health officials from all districts to Guwahati for observation of World No Tobacco Day on May 31 this year. She said a big human chain, involving mostly school and college students, was being planned.