Monday, 3 March 2014

Why do so many Kerala children use tobacco?

Admin February 28, 2014 at 9:59 am

Seventy-four per cent children in Kerala use tobacco, according to a recent multi-state survey conducted by National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. A total of 119 children in the state, between the age group of 5-18, were covered as part of the study, conducted to examine the pattern, profile and correlates of substance use, a release said here on Thursday. In all, the study commissioned by Working Group on Substance Abuse and Drug Addiction among Children under the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) reached out to 4,024 children across 27 states and two union territories, it said.

Children living in homes with families and children living in streets were included in the study. ‘Alcohol, tobacco and inhalants are common initial substances of abuse and have been described as ‘gateway substances’. These substances are easily available to the children,’ the study observed. ‘Moreover, they (these products) are not illegal and there is some form of social acceptance for their use.

However, the use of these gateway substances increases the subsequent risk of transition to harder and illicit substances,’ it said. A. Shajahan, Secretary, state Department of General Education said, ‘Even while accepting that the sample veers towards a severe end of the spectrum, the findings regarding use of tobacco among children is highly disturbing.’ ‘All educational institutions in the state have to take a note of this and strictly enforce laws of the land along with spreading awareness. Concerted action is the need of the hour; nothing should be left to chance,’ he said.

P. Vijayan, DIG (Intelligence) and State Nodal Officer of the ‘Student Police Cadets’ and ‘Our Responsibility to Children’ projects said, tobacco use is a beginning to deviant behaviour and an entry to crime among all hardened criminals of today. ‘One of the purposes of the SPCs is to equip and empower students to resist societal malaises such as substance abuse. Student cadets are also specifically trained to help in identifying the sale of tobacco and other harmful substances around schools,’ he said.

 Tobacco – the most dangerous weapon of mass destruction? 

 Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi had told us earlier: ‘It is a well-known fact 50% of all cancer cases caused in India are caused by tobacco use. In my work (I am a Professor and Cancer Surgeon at the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai), I see young people affected with the most horrible cancers every day and most of them die within weeks of diagnosis. Tobacco kills every third user prematurely through cancer, heart attackstroke, etc. You will realise the sheer gravity of the situation when you realise that over 27 crore Indians are hooked to tobacco. Consider this, the World War II – considered the deadliest conflict in human history – had over 50 million casualties. In comparison, it’s estimated that tobacco has killed 1 billion people in the last century.


It is the only consumer product that is almost guaranteed to cause death, disease and disability and even the industry that sells it admits it on its labels.  According to WHO, tobacco addiction is a ‘disease’.  How can we promote an industry selling death and disease to every third Indian solely for profits? 


Tobacco use in India

After China, India’s home to the maximum number of tobacco users including cigarette, bidi smokers and smokeless tobacco users.  According to conservative estimates, tobacco takes 2,500 lives every day in India and kills one million Indians every year. To this effect, gutka has been officially banned in a lot of states though it’s still easily available:

Tobacco use along with obesity are two of the biggest reasons for the various non-communicable diseases that people suffer from around the world. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey estimated that tobacco had claimed one billion lives in the last century. In comparison, humanity’s biggest war – World War II took 50 million lives. We can no longer hide from the fact that tobacco is one of the most dangerous enemies that has ever threatened mankind’s existence. So are you ready for the battle?


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