"Both the use and acceptance of tobacco usage is on the increase. This is indeed a very alarming sign for society. The Indian anti-tobacco law is strong but in reality its implementation is very weak," said Bobby Ramakant, an activist journalist, at the monthly 'Media for Children' session organized at the UP Press Club, by Media Nest (MN), with the support of UNICEF. MN is a Lucknow based pan-global forum of media professionals that works for the welfare of media persons and their families.
Ramakant while giving a run through the various development that have taken place in the tobacco industry said that of late though dedicated individuals have come forward to create awareness about the hazards of tobacco yet a lot still needs to be done because tobacco industry is a cartel of sharks. He said this is why the global tobacco treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), had adopted the guidelines for Article 5.3 stating clearly that there is a direct and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry and public health. Ramakant informed that from 1st June, 2010 the tame pictorial warnings on the cigarette packs will be replaced by powerful pictures- showing oral cancer that will have an impact on the mind of the smoker and dissuade him from consuming this slow poison.
While briefing journalists at this capacity building programme on how to write hard-hitting stories on tobacco usage Ramakant gave them data and findings to show how they can give a sharpness and focus to their articles against tobacco usage. He said even as a common informed and concerned citizen you can help reduce this menace.
"It is in your power to make your environment smoke-free, please work towards this healthy initiative" he requested.
Present as resource persons at this Media Hour session were members of the Shine Health Association (SHA)- a group of Lucknow-based young dental doctors working towards a tobacco-free India and better oral health.
One of the doctors, Dr Shambivi Singh, a dental surgeon, gave a presentation describing how they are working towards creating awareness in youth, specially children against tobacco usage.
"The benefits of giving up tobacco can be felt in 20 minutes but it takes 10 years of total abstenance for it to show effect. Beware do not believe that smoking or taking any form of narcotics will give you a style statement," said Dr Singh.
Earlier addressing the audience, Dr Satya Gupta, head SHA, said that the alarming statistics that they got during a research which showed that 36.9 % of children initiate smoking before the age of 10 years with boys 55.1% and girls 32.1%.
(i) 4.2% of students currently smoked cigarettes with the rate for boys significantly higher than girls
(ii) 11.9% of students currently used other tobacco products
(iii) Cigarette smoking among youth is high in Central, Southern and Eastern regions (12%) made them decide to take by anti-tobacco awareness campaign in a big manner
"We thought that even if we cannot stop tobacco users we can at least ensure that we help prevent increasing their numbers through motivational drives among children against tobacco," said Dr Gupta. She said that their team is now holding camps at various schools in slums in both rural and urban area.
SHA organizes a oral health check up camp for the members of Media Nest (MN) and their families at UP Press Club.
Conducting the session Mr Durgesh Narain Shukla, senior journalist and member of Media Nest said that it is a happy co-incidence that Media Nest has initiated the health camps from May 8th which is the International Red Cross Day.
Speaking on the occasion the secretary general of Media Nest, Kulsum Talha, said that with the initiative of adding a health camp to the Media for Children, Media Nest has started its work towards working for the health of not just Media persons but also their families.
"Media Nest is like a cocoon for Media persons and their families and we are happy that we are now really working on welfare activities for journalists. With the passage of time we hope to organize more health and utility camps for journalists," said Ms Talha.
She said that for the last one and half years Media Nest has been organizing this session bi-monthly but now it will be held once a month on second Saturday. The fourth Saturday programme will be held at different Press Clubs in the state by rotation. (CNS)
Kulsum Mustafa - CNS
(The author is a senior journalist and secretary of Media Nest. She is a Fellow of Thailand-based Citizen News Service (CNS)'s Writers' Bureau. Website: www.citizen-news.org)