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Drug users increase, as smoking goes down

Grappling with drug menace, Punjab records decline in smoking cases, as recent results of National Family Health Survey (2015-16) indicate that the percentage of men who consume tobacco has gone down from 33.8 per cent to 19.2 per cent in the last ten years.

The survey was carried by International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, which has been appointed as the nodal agency for the survey by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. As many as 19,484 women, 3,027 men from over 16,449 households were interviewed from January 28 to June 20 for the study.

The figures offer a glimmer of hope for the state which has been fighting to crack down on the drug problem. The issue was also raised in the Rajya Sabha in August this year, when leaders pointed out the large number of drug-related cases being reported from the state.

As per the survey, one third of the male population (33.8 %) were tobacco consumers in 2005-06 when the survey was last carried out, which has gone down to 19.2 per cent in 2016. Among women it has reduced from 0.8 per cent to 0.1 per cent. Out of the total number of men consuming tobacco, 17.1 per cent belonged to urban sections while 20 per cent were from rural section. The studies also indicated that a total of 24.4 per cent men admitted that they tried to stop smoking in last 12 months. In neighbouring Haryana, the prevalence of tobacco use was found to be 35.8 per cent among men.

Smoking or tobacco consumption is prohibited in Sikhism, so it’s also associated with an article of faith, due to which public consumption is not that common, say public health experts. But, government health officials highlight that the number has begun to come down in last six years, due to strict implementation of laws governing sale of tobacco.

“Punjab had been making serious efforts to tackle the problem of tobacco use,” said Vini Mahajan, Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Punjab. He added, “as per the survey, tobacco in Punjab is the lowest among all the states. This is significant considering the fact that there are 2,200 deaths attributed to tobacco use and 5,500 children/youth that start using tobacco daily in India.”

Elaborating on the issue, Dr Rakesh Gupta, Deputy Director, Punjab Health Department said that prevalence of chewable tobacco is more compared to cigarettes or bidis. “It is common among the large section of workforce especially migrant labourers who work on the fields, but with strict implementation of laws and awareness, the number has come down,” he said.

Gupta also highlighted that Punjab was the first state where e-cigarettes were banned and other states followed suit. “All districts of Punjab were declared as ‘Tobacco Smoke Free’ (TSF) on the basis of compliance study and Punjab received WHO World No Tobacco Day 2015 award.” said Gupta.

Next, the department plans to crack down on sale of loose cigarettes and encourage more people to quit smoking through active sessions in De-addiction centres in hospitals.