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State declared smoke-free, a 1st for HP in country

Himachal today earned the distinction of becoming the first state in the country to be declared smoke-free with a compliance of 84.52 per cent, based on a scientific technical survey conducted as per international standards.

The milestone achieved by the state was formally announced by Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur here today. He stressed the need for taking steps to check smoking at home which was at an alarming high of 83 per cent, which affected all the family members.

However, the fact that 60 per cent of the youth in Himachal in the age group 20 to 34 years smoke, as compared to the national figure of 39.3 per cent, is a matter of grave concern. The fact that an overwhelming number of 21 per cent youth in the state get hooked to smoking when they are still in school or college is even more worrisome.

As per a smoke-free compliance arrived at jointly by the Department of Community Medicine of the Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC) and the Population Research Centre at Himachal Pradesh University, Bilaspur followed by Shimla have a compliance percentage of 92.76 and 92.17 per cent.

“To be declared a smoke-free state, the compliance has to be above 80 per cent and the average for the entire state has been worked out at 85.42 per cent,” said Narinder Sharma, Executive Director, HP Voluntary Health Association (HPVHA).

Srinivas Joshi, consultant, HPVHA, said a total of 9,609 places, including educational institutes, offices, health institutions, industry, public conveniences and eating facilities, were taken into consideration for various parameters like display of no smoking signages, non-availability of active smoking, smoking aids, cigarettes or traces of recent smoking. The compliance was found to be highest in educational places at 93.14 per cent, followed by 91.10 in health institutions and 87.83 in offices with the average for the state being 85.42 per cent.

As far as districts are concerned, Kangra with a low of 80.17 per cent has the worst compliance followed by Chamba being a close second at 80.30 per cent, Hamirpur at 80.86 per cent, Sirmaur at 81.06 per cent and Una at 82.95 per cent. The urban areas of the state have a slightly better compliance with regard to non-smoking at 51 per cent as compared to 49 per cent in rural areas.

As per the compliance of different indicators under Section 4 of the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition and Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, the non-availability of smoking aids like matchboxes and lighters stands at 94 per cent and status of display of no smoking signages at 71 per cent.

Biting Reality

 

Notwithstanding HP being declared a smoke-free state, the harsh reality is that there is 83 per cent smoking within the confines of home. It affects 79 per cent passive or indirect smokers, who are women and children, often infants. As such, the thrust now should be on discouraging passive smoking so that it does not affect the health of non-smokers.

The Tribune (03-07-2013)