Keep Kolkata Tobacco Free

Debasish Chattopadhyay

Kolkata : In an era, when ‘Clean City, Green City’ has become the call of the day, tobacco products have remained to be the biggest obstacle for a younger vibrant country like India. The case of West Bengal, a state where tobacco is legally banned, is no different either. A decade back, the data obtained by the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India figured that in West Bengal, 36.3% of adults above the age of 15 years used tobacco. In fact,
at that time, 21% of adults were smokers and 22% used smokeless tobacco. The Tobacco Free
West Bengal Campaign Forum has called for mass awareness and immediate measures to keep
the City of Joy healthy, clean and green by enforcing COTPA 2003 effectively.
Last year, the Government of West Bengal had put a complete ban on the manufacture, storage,
distribution and selling of gutka and pan masala under the Food Safety Act of Government of
India. The step was indeed a massive step towards a Tobacco Free state. Although there has
been a significant increase in awareness among the citizens, still a lot needs to be done to safeguard the lives of the people against all dangerous health hazards of Tobacco. According
to a report of 2011 published by Public Health Information of India in collaboration with the
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India and the WHO Country Office for India
regarding the economic burden related to health issues caused by tobacco, the economic burden
of West Bengal has been Rs 3,440 Crores. The economic burden of West Bengal due to cancer,
respiratory disease, and TB was Rs 1,332 Crores.
According to the latest statistics of GATS – 2 (Global Adult Tobacco Survey) 2016-17, 5.3%
of people are still exposed to second-hand smoking at healthcare facilities. In this regard, Dr.
Gautam Mukhopadhyay, Secretary, Bengal Oncology Foundation remarked, ‘All Healthcare Facilities including Public and Private need to be declared as Tobacco Free Healthcare Facilities. This is indeed urgently needed today.’ No doubt, smoking in public places is tremendously dangerous for non-smokers, causing multiple health hazards in bystanders. The violation of COTPA 2003 needs to be taken care of and presently, Challans need to be issued under Section 4 of COTPA in the city of Kolkata, which prohibits smoking at all public places.
Dr. Md. Ariff, an eminent Clinical Oncologist of the city mentioned the health hazards of tobacco consumption. He further cautioned, ‘‘We must understand and introspect how tobacco consumption is affecting the younger generation of Kolkata. The situation is indeed alarming and strict measures need to be implemented to get hold of the situation.”
Let’s not forget that Tobacco Free West Bengal Campaign continuously requesting the Government of West Bengal to start issuing challans for non-compliance of COTPA 2003 in
West Bengal and record the report of violations in Police MCR (Monthly Crime Report).
Tapan Dasgupta, Borough Chairman, Kolkata Municipal Corporation and a crusader
against tobacco consumption reiterated,” Effective enforcement of COTPA 2003 is urgently
needed without any delay. And make no mistake, public smoking needs to be prohibited.
No Tobacco Shop should be there within the 100 radius of the educational institutions. On my
front, I have already decided to lead more Blue Line Campaigns in the city starting from my Borough 10.”
Dr. Saibal Banerjee, Additional Director of Health Services – Health Department & Nodal Officer – Tobacco Control Cell, categorically mentioned the commitment of the state government is acting on the complaints received. He made it a point to say that the state government has effectively strategized plans to make Kolkata a ‘COTPA Compliant City’.
T.P Ghosh, from Kolkata Police pointed out the focus of the Kolkata Police. “We are carefully looking at Effective Enforcement of COTPA 2003. No doubt, as far as Challan issuance and inclusion of COTPA Violation in Police Monthly Crime Reports are concerned, the Kolkata Police Department has been dynamic and in the coming days, we are further going to stress on mass awareness campaigns to sensitise people on this subject,”.
Tobacco is considered as one of the leading causes of premature death. Worldwide, tobacco
use causes nearly 6 million deaths per year, and current trends show that tobacco use will cause
more than 8 million deaths annually by 2030. One can only hope that Kolkata, the City which has always been exemplary in its thoughts and practices, will lead the way in the days to come.
A bright sunny sky in Tagore’s Kolkata demands a tobacco-free environment.
About Tobacco Free West Bengal Tobacco Free West Bengal is a non-governmental initiative—an effort to deliver high impact, evidence-based tobacco-control interventions. This campaign is focused on achieving and implementing sustainable developments by the Government of West Bengal that will substantial reductions in tobacco use and make the environment ‘smoke-free’.