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Public health experts hail Centre�s move to ban tobacco products

By City Correspondent

GUWAHATI, April 30 - Public health experts have welcomed the recent move of the Central government to ban the use of tobacco products and spitting in public places with the aim to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has directed all states and union territories to ban use and spitting of chewing tobacco products in public places to prevent spread of novel coronavirus.

Over 20 states and three UTs have already banned use of smokeless tobacco products and spitting in public places during COVID-19. Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Puducherry, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Tripura, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim are penalising violators.

�We applaud Central government for taking a timely step for imposing a ban on the sale of tobacco products and spitting in public places to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 virus. To protect their health and reduce their risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, we urge all smokers and tobacco users to quit, especially at this critical time,� said advocate Ajoy Hazarika, secretary of Consumers� Legal Protection Forum, Assam.

�There is growing evidence that smoking is a risk for Covid-19. Smoking worsens lung function and reduces immunity. Smokers who develop Covid-19 infection have more complications and greater risk of fatality. Even if a person is not affected by the virus, it is a good time to stop smoking. This improves immunity and can improve lung function within a few months. Apart from reducing risks, there are many other benefits on the lungs, heart and other parts of the body,� said Dr Srabana Misra Bhagabaty, Associate Professor cum in-charge, Department of Preventive Oncology, Dr B Borooah Cancer Institute (BBCI).

Moreover, tobacco users keen to quit smoking and smokeless products, can avail of free telephone-based quit line services launched by the Central government. The National Tobacco Quit Line Services is designed to help tobacco users quit the addiction by answering their queries, setting a quit date, formulating a personalised quit plan, and follow up through a dedicated toll-free number (1800-11-2356) that can be reached from Tuesday to Sunday between 8 am and 8 pm. It offers free confidential, personalised support by trained tobacco counsellors in English, Hindi and regional languages.

Tobacco users can also avail of m-cessation, an initiative of MoHFW for utilising mobile technology for tobacco cessation. Tobacco users can register by giving a missed call to a national number (011-22901701) to avail support for quitting through constant text messaging on their mobile phones. This service uses two-way messaging between individuals seeking to quit tobacco use and experts who provide them advice and information through SMS or interactive voice response in 12 languages.

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