Mohan takes a deep puff from his cigarette and blows out the smoke from his nostrils. “I learnt this technique just a few days ago”, he chuckles. Barely 16 years old, Mohan has been smoking for the last three years. His father, Sukhi, is a daily wage labourer and his mother died during childbirth some years ago.
Sukhi leaves for work in the morning and has no time to see what Mohan is up to. In his dad’s absence, Mohan has discovered the joy and glory of smoking. He started with his father’s unused bidis and eventually upgraded to cigarettes. He has dropped out of school and buys cigarettes from the money that he steals from Sukhi, or from other people’s pockets.
Mohan is not alone. Thousands of children like him have easy access to tobacco and tobacco products. If you feel that this is only rampant in a certain economic class of the society, think again. Here is a report that will present the deplorable state of affairs in our country.
Selling tobacco near prominent schools
According to recent reports, several schools all over India had shops or tiny establishments selling tobacco-products. Thus, the children going to these schools had easy access to harmful products like gutkha, cigarettes, zarda, and pan-masala. Let us have a quick look at the most unfortunate results of this report:
- Almost every tobacco display was at the height of about 1 meter. This strongly points toward child-targeted advertising at their eye-point level.
- A large majority of these shops were located right next to shops selling sweets and confectionary. Thus, there was no shortage of visitors to these shops.
- About half of these shops had no display warning against using tobacco. Hence, there was no way of making children aware of the associated dangers.
- Many such shops offered discounts on tobacco products, thereby increasing their sale.
It is astonishing to know these results, isn’t it? Instead of ensuring that our children are protected from such menaces, we are closing our eyes in these matters. Is the tobacco industry plotting such schemes to target children and ensure long-term sales? If so, where are the law-makers and law-keepers?
Legal regulations against tobacco sale
According to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), strict regulations regarding the sale and use of tobacco products exist. Among them, the main provisions are:
- Prohibition of tobacco products sale within a radius of 100 meters from educational institutions.
- A clear indication of the side effects of tobacco on the packaging of tobacco products.
- Prohibition of sale of tobacco products to people below the age of 18 years.
- Heavy restrictions on advertising of tobacco products.
Isn’t it surprising to see such blatant and open defiance of these regulations?
Proven health hazards of tobacco
Tobacco has been clearly and repeatedly implicated in development and progression of many health hazards. In fact, some of them are serious and potentially life-threatening. In a nutshell, here are some ill-effects of tobacco on our health:
- Cancer of head, neck, lung, kidneys, liver, colon, stomach, oesophagus, mouth and blood.
- Increased propensity to stroke, fractures, and heart problems.
- Chronic problems with the respiratory system, especially, pneumonia and respiratory infections.
- Heavy reduction in fertility and thus, a difficulty in natural conception.
- Increased chances of gum infection and eye problems.
- More likelihood to develop diabetes and high blood pressure.
These health hazards are scary enough, but imagining our children smoking or having tobacco-products is even more heart-wrenching.
How to work on it?
It is important for every parent to lead by example. If you are a smoker, you have to quit smoking before talking to your child about the ill-effects of tobacco. Likewise, get rid of tobacco consumption.
Take a finer look at their school and college and notify the principal if you find a shop selling tobacco-products. Also, keep a close eye on your child’s friend-circle. You don’t have to become Sherlock Holmes and follow them everywhere, but just try to know your child’s friends. If you notice any of them smoking or chewing something suspicious, speak out!
Try to tell your child about the harmful effects of tobacco. If possible, show a few pictures too. Once they understand that it is harmful, they are less likely to try it out. Finally, get involved in your child’s activities and win their confidence. If they are comfortable talking to you about this topic, they are more likely to talk about their feelings and life-choices.