Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tobacco menace

(This is ‘Ardi Rizal’, a 2 year old Indonesian boy, who smokes 40 cigarettes a day. He became addict when his father gave him his first cigarette when he was just 18 months old!)

May 31st was “celebrated” as World No Tobacco Day. It is meant to encourage abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe for 24 hours. News papers, news channels published no tobacco ads. Organizations too “celebrated” the day with slogans and posters. Supreme Court of India had imposed a countrywide ban on smoking in pubic places and public transport from 2nd October 2008.Prior to that Delhi government too had taken a step to curb smoking by imposing a the ban on children below 18 years of age from buying tobacco products and stopping the shops from selling cigarette and other tobacco products in the vicinity of educational institutions.

The irony is that all these actions have not been able to curb the menace of tobacco in India. Instead of getting eliminated this reptile is getting bigger and bigger from every passing year. It is taking a toll of almost 2200 lives every day in India. More alarming is the fact that people who die come from almost all strata. It is true that “tobacco” is akin to epidemic today which has engulfed our whole society.

Though exemplary, these steps might prove ineffective unless they are included in a broader strategy, on the part of the government to inform and educate people about this spreading hazard. But, to make any thought-out plans, we must probe deeper into the cause of this threat .

I have tried to give some insights in this connection -

A “web” has been created by “tobacco producing companies”, especially by those which manufacture cigarettes, to catch more and more people in their net. Through their ads on the media and strong distribution channel, they have made tobacco products (cigarette specially) omnipresent. They sponsor all big events and hire celebrities from sports, films etc. to endorse their products. It short, they have tacitly made tobacco products in general and cigarette in particular a “status symbol”. Tobacco and cigarette today have become not only socially acceptable but desirable. They have successfully created a false perception among people that all successful people smoke and it adds to the personality. This “attack on the unconscious” of the people has made any person today prone to smoke or consume tobacco products. Obviously the young and adolescents are most vulnerable. Because of the addictive power of these products, a person once introduced to them, slowly attaches it to all his/her life events and life style and ends up by becoming its slave.

But the real threat is to the young generation. Apart from above specified reasons, they are lured to this seduction due to some different reasons. Modeling or Imitation is a major way through which a child acquires any behavior. When the adolescent sees so many persons around him, right from elders to peers, smoking or consuming tobacco products, he tries to imitate. The atmosphere of today’s “modern educational institutions” adds ‘fuel to the fire’. Every adolescent wants to be socially accepted by his/her peer group. Many times it happens that he is forced (psychologically) to smoke to remain in the group. He does it for a perceived reward and attaches it with his personality and self concept. The cigarette become a ‘uniting link’ between the group

I disagree with the opinion that enacting laws to restrict the influence of tobacco is a “feckless endeavor” and “an old-fashioned idea”. I don’t think this would be a “good idea” that on the one hand we make people aware and educate them about the dangers of tobacco and on the other make tobacco available to every nook and corner and leave it on people to make an “Intelligent Choice”! India is a country with socialistic ideals. Any act that is beneficial for the society at large must be welcome. Since it is difficult for the government to ban tobacco products totally or make the tobacco cultivation illegal due to various “constraints and obligations”. With the fact that it contributes to 10% of total revenue in the form of excise, it can certainly take some indirect steps to contain this hazard.

All steps taken by government can become effective only when they are supported by the public awareness programs that stimulate all sections of society to take active part in this endeavor. A Strong public opinion should be made for ‘saying no to tobacco’. The media must also take the initiative. It can air programs on hazards of smocking. Educational institutional have more serious role to play in this direction as the seeds of “Smoking Behavior” are sown in college and school only. Only a collective effort can defy such a powerful enemy. It’s high time we have taken a determined effort to get rid of this evil


Identity Crisis said...

Aseem very true...
to bring this menace to an end is not an easy task...implementation by government through its agencies has to be streamlined...besides...who are non smokers must take a self initiative to resist any kind of public smoking in any a non smoker why should i wait for someone to come and tell me to stop others from doing it...its illegal to smoke publicly and if i prohibit any one from smoking i m helping law...this sense of relaisation and duty has to come...

अशोक कुमार पाण्डेय said...

i agree and i dont want to give free smoke to anyone.So why dont the government provides us separate places for smoking? Like we have on Airports why can't we have smoking zones in trains,railway stations, Malls etc...

This is a one sided statement which seems politically correct in present scenario but you will have to think about the other side. Its my personal choice to smoke...i don't want to smoke in public...provide me my space..and hey! I am paying one of the highest tax share for every puff!!!

Aseem said...

lav- yes a two pronged strategy needs to be adopted for this - Push and Pull.Push should be given by government in form of legislation and regulations and at the same time the pull should be exerted by civil society, media and private organizations. in fact i feel that non smoking should be made a fundamental duty

Aseem said...

What kind of personal choice Ashok! to harm oneself and kill oneself?Since how long you have adopted this capitalistic ideology ?Does the drug addict also have a personal choice to ruin himself?..Does a 18 year one should have a personal choice to smoke and see porn?..Do we keep allowing the so called tobacco lobby to sell their product to people who make their personal choice to smoke?

Then what is the "public good" ashok? More than personal choice it should be "right choice"..We must do what is right for ourselves and society..and that's what government and other bodies should do!

अशोक कुमार पाण्डेय said...

My Dear...there are so many things which is not good for public..say tha system itself...the economic environment...the cultural imperialism...the whole system..but no one will attack it...and your new type of SOCIALISM seems to avoid all these things and concentrate on some fashionable things like Quit Smoking or Say truth, dont kill animals and bla bla bla
and who says that personal choice is related with capitalism only? Yes the question of personal choice was first raised during the french revolution but it is a part of our progressive inheritence and in a socialistic society there should be more scope for fulfilling our personal choices by minimising the economic inequality.

As for As the cliche 'ruining yourself'...its a moral policing my dear...there are many other things which are more dangerous... but no one will utter against them... because they will hamper the interest of capitalist class. No one will say against what is being done to the the the the small scale industries...

Being 'Revolutionary' is not about preaching. I agree smoking may be not that beneficial for health...but it may be beneficial in other ways.Che had TB but Cigar gave him the energy to gives me more concentration to write and read. For some labour it may give momentous relief...Now its my choice whether I want to have those extra hours of work now or the extra length of Life later...who is anyone else to preach me.I know the risks...but I am ready to bear it.I term it 'Personal Irrationality' and you will find it in a number of other human behaviors. Why the hell anyone want to compel me to condition myself according to his roll models! Why cant I have my owns?

And how can i believe on those dirty medical researches? More than 90% of them are funded by big business houses and they serve their interests.

And you cant compare porn with smoking...movies are shows are more!

Aseem said...

friend that's what i am trying to convey. The addictive power of tobacco is so strong that it makes people it's slave and it drives them.:)
As I mentioned in my earlier post that the onus is on government, civil society(of course non smokers) and media to push for curbing this menace.

Two wrongs do not make a right! if there are other thing not good for public, happening..does it mean that we also allow this to happen!

But yes,one should be given his personal space.(smokers)..My post was not to ask them leave it..It was to create such atmosphere where they do not need to smoke!