GUWAHATI, March 17 - The Voluntary Health Association of Assam (VHAA) has appealed to all the major political parties in the fray for the upcoming Assembly polls in the State to include issues pertaining to tobacco control in Assam in their election manifestos.
To prevent initiation of tobacco use amongst children and youths and for reducing the economic burden from tobacco-related diseases, the non-profit organisation has requested all political parties irrespective of their political ideologies to make a commitment to the public, ahead of the Assembly polls, through their election manifestos, to address all issues related to tobacco control, if given a chance to form the next government in Assam.
A team of VHAA�s representatives submitted a written representation in this regard to the in-charges of the manifesto committees of ruling Congress, BJP, AGP and AIUDF.
In the representation, the association laid stress on the inclusion some specific core issues pertaining to tobacco control in the election manifestos of the political parties.
�These issues include stringent and sustained enforcement of anti-tobacco law � Cigarette and Other Tobacco Product Act (COTPA, 2003) and re-enforcement of the Assam Health Act, 2013 (ban on manufacturing, sale, distribution, consumption and advertisement of all forms of smokeless tobacco), besides stringent enforcement of anti-tobacco laws, particularly near educational institutions (ban on sale of tobacco products under a 100-yard radius of any educational institution under Section 6-b of COTPA),� Ruchira Neog, executive secretary, VHAA, said. It also called for increase in VAT in all forms of tobacco products in the upcoming State budget to reduce consumption.
�We request all political parties of the State to address this issue earnestly to safeguard and protect the people of Assam, and to do so, they should make the subject of tobacco control a mandate in their election manifestos,� she said.
In the representation submitted to the political parties, it was pointed out that according to the study, �Economic Burden of Tobacco Related Diseases in India� conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India in collaboration with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use in Assam amounted to Rs 541 crore in the year 2011 for persons aged 35-69, of which 47 per cent was direct medical costs and 53 per cent was indirect morbidity costs.
According to a recently released Hospital Based Cancer Registry of the Dr B Barooah Cancer Institute, in the year 2014, 67.1 per cent and 45.9 per cent of all cancers in male and females registered in the institute related to tobacco use.
Besides, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS)-2010, Assam is a major victim of tobacco abuse with 39 per cent of adults in the State consuming some form of tobacco � cigarettes, bidis and smokeless (gutka, khaini, etc). This is way above the national prevalence rate of 34 per cent, whereas 52.6 per cent of males and 25.3 per cent females in Assam are found to use tobacco in some form or the other.