Maharashtra Almost 5.1% of students use various forms of tobacco products, survey reveals

A survey of 3,765 students aged between 13 and 15 in 35 schools in Maharashtra revealed that almost 5.1% of the 3,765 students use various forms of tobacco products. In addition, according to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey released on Thursday, 4% of students smoke tobacco and 2.4% are smokeless tobacco users. This is the first time that a Maharashtra-based survey has been undertaken.

Maharashtra’s Minister of Health, Rajesh Tope, has stressed the importance of educating young people about the harmful effects of smoking. “We need to raise awareness in schools and institutions to reduce the prevalence of smoking among young students. There must be strict implementation of tobacco laws on the ground to reduce the demand and supply of tobacco products,” he said.

The survey also revealed that more than 31.5% of children were exposed to passive smoking at home and in public. Surprisingly, despite the ban on selling tobacco to minors, 35.9% of children said they bought it from the store. 27.3% of respondents were boys and nearly double that number, 52.8%, were girls. Student responses reveal how the state government failed to implement the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act of 2003.

Dr Pradeep Vyas, Additional Chief Secretary, Maharashtra, said: “It is important to educate students about the health risks posed by tobacco as there is always an opportunity to transform their impressionable minds for the better and at the same time, there is also the risk of being easily swept away by undesirable influences”.

There is a need for a major overhaul of tobacco vendor policies, particularly regarding the sale of these products near educational establishments – survey shows nearly 56% of underage students were able to buy tobacco products (cigarettes, beedis and other chews) through street vendors.

“About 63% of current cigarette smokers and 70% of current beedi smokers purchased cigarettes/beedis from a store, beedi shop, street vendor or vending machine. Among current smokers, 30% of cigarette smokers and 43% of beedi smokers were not turned away by vendors/traders because of their age (age range 13-15),” the report reveals.

The report further highlights that use of any form of tobacco was highest among students at home (30%), followed by use in public spaces (14.4%), among friends (11, 9 percent), at social events (10 percent), school (9 percent) and other places (24 percent).

Dr Padmaja Jogewar, co-director and SNO, NTCP, said he has penalized many shops that sell cigarettes, beedis and any form of tobacco within 100 meters of a school. But there is also the need to educate children from an early age, for whom they plan to include a chapter on the dangers of smoking in the program. “Almost 30,000 institutions have been tobacco free in Maharashtra, since the COTPA Act of 2003. Last year we collected fines of Rs 5 crore from vendors/traders who sold cigarettes within 100 meters of a school,” she said.

In Maharashtra, GYTS-4 was conducted in 2019 (in both rural and urban areas) as part of a nationwide survey conducted by the International Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). A total of 4,360 students from 35 schools (nine public schools and 20 private schools) participated in the survey.

The survey was conducted to study and estimate tobacco use among 13-15 year olds at the state level based on gender and school location (rural-urban). The first three rounds of GYTS were conducted in 2003, 2006 and 2009.

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Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2022, 11:30 p.m. IST

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