DIMAPUR, July 29 � Drawing urgent attention to smokeless tobacco use with particular reference to gutka, a very dangerous substance which has a mixture of various chemicals and has no quality control, a high power delegation from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, today expressed serious concern over the scenario of tobacco consumption, particularly gutka consumption, which has been noted as �very, very high� in Nagaland.
The delegation included Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Tata Memorial Hospital, Amal Pusp, Director, National Tobacco Control Programme, Dr L Swasti Charan, Chief Medical Officer, General Health Services and Dr L Ashananda, Regional Director, Health & Family Welfare, Imphal.
The overall data on prevalence of tobacco use in North Eastern States shows that next to Mizoram, which has tobacco consumption of 67per cent including 40 per cent in the smoking category and 41 in the smokeless category, Nagaland has a prevalence rate of 57 per cent with 32 per cent in the smoking category and 45 per cent in the smokeless category. It has been observed that every second man and every third woman in the State is addicted to tobacco, and as per the Global Tobacco Survey (GTS), MOHFW, 69 per cent men and 43 per cent women are using tobacco.
Addressing a press conference at Hotel Japf� this afternoon, Director of National Tobacco Control Programme, New Delhi, Amal Pusp said the team is here because they are very concerned about the incidence of tobacco and disease-related issues in the State. It was pointed out that Nagaland is among states with the highest burden of tobacco-related illness in the entire country and also among those with the highest incidence of lung cancer in the entire world, especially among women.
The visiting team underlined that 57 per cent of the population means that an estimated 2.5 lakh people in Nagaland are tobacco users.
In this regard, the state authority was also strongly urged to enforce and regulate tobacco control laws under COPTA in the interest of young people of Nagaland, during a meeting held earlier in the day with the Home Secretary and officials of the Health Department, Police, Finance, Education and an NGO.
It was learnt that full cooperation has been assured by these departments to regulate and restrict sale of tobacco in the State. The Home Secretary was further impressed upon to include COPTA compliance in the monthly crime review meetings.
The objective of the high power delegation of the MOHFW is to sensitise policy makers and various stakeholders in the North East region and share some of the effective strategies that have emerged as game changers in tobacco control movement in India with one such move being the ban of gutka and pan masala containing tobacco under FSSAI 2006. While six states have done it, it was pointed out that none of the NE states have taken the step in spite of the very high incidence of smokeless consumption.
It was also highlighted that Nagaland is losing thousands of young and middle-aged people due to the habit of tobacco use, while billions of rupees are being wasted on the health care of these largely preventable illnesses. The State Government was, therefore, impressed upon to understand the epidemic while departments concerned and communities were called upon to join hands in ensuring awareness of tobacco hazards, to make tobacco prohibitively expensive, and to safeguard the health of the State by ensuring impeccable implementation of COPTA 2003.