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Assam Government has started an SMS campaign to ensure all educational institutions are tobacco free in the state. The Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Sarba Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) have started sending SMSs to the Principals and heads of government educational institutions in the state reminding them to ensure their institutions were tobacco free, Assam Secretary to Secondary Education Department, R C Jain said. The state education department had already instructed Principal/Heads of education institutions and district education officers to implement the campaign across the state. Jain said they have started sending SMSs to the Principal and heads of institutions through the centralised system of RMSA and 4,000 such SMSs have been sent on June 18. "Our efforts will be to ensure that Principals and heads of educational institutions implement at the earliest.
We shall continue to send the SMS until it is completed in all government educational institutions," he said.
In order to declare educational institutions tobacco free, the Heads/Principals of educational institutions need to ensure that all signages inside and outside the educational institutions be put up as per law and there must not be any use of tobacco products in the premises.
In Assam, 140 children are initiated to tobacco use everyday and over 85 lakh adult consume tobacco in some form or the other as per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2010.
Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health and Tata Trusts in association with Assam education department and Dr B Barooah Cancer Institute in Guwahati had launched the Tobacco Free Educational Institutions (TFEI) campaign in Assam on World Environment Day this year.
The study also took 539 bidi packs of 23 bidi companies and 50 brands of non-identified bidi companies in pre- identified tobacco vendors. In cigarettes, brands like Bristol, Gold Flake, Navy Cut, Classic, Flake, Capstan, India Kings, Marlboro and others were found to be fully complaint with the mandated warnings while smokeless tobacco brands like Kuber, Baba 120, Miraj, Tulsi, Dilbag, Pan Bahar and Shikhar were found to be compliant. "In Delhi, 54 per cent of the cigarette packs were fully compliant with all the labeling requirements of the law while 22 per cent of the bidi packs displayed a pictorial and text health warning label that covered 85 per cent. "55 per cent of the smokeless tobacco packs displayed a pictorial and text health warning label that covered 85 per cent of the principal display area," it said. These new and larger pictorial warnings will allow people to see clearly the devastating truth about tobacco consumption that leads to death and disease for majority of its users, the study said. "Even though some tobacco companies are opposing in implementing the new health warnings on tobacco products, the study results show that implementing 85 per cent pictorial warnings on tobacco products is possible and practical and tobacco companies are abiding by the law. "The government must strictly enforce the new rules as health warnings on tobacco packages are a direct, cost- effective means of communication to inform the health risks of tobacco consumption to the consumers, new users and illiterate," said Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, Voluntary Health Association of India. Scientific studies demonstrate that larger pictorial warning labels on tobacco packages are an effective way to inform users about the dangers of tobacco dependence, motivate consumers to quit, and prevent youth from starting to use tobacco, it said. "The government needs to redouble its efforts to strictly enforce the implementation of the new pictorial warnings on every tobacco product sold across the country and must aim for a full compliance of the law by all tobacco manufacturers," added Seema Gupta, Director VHAI. The new pictorial health warnings also need to apply to imported cigarettes and other tobacco products for sale in India, it said.