Monday, May 31, 2010

World Tobacco Day focuses on Protecting Women Worldwide

Sunday, May 30, 2010
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
Globally, every year, May 31st is observed as World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). This year the focus is on Gender and Tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women. In commemoration of World No Tobacco Day this year, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India with support of World Health Organisation (WHO), and in collaboration with Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC) and other partner organization including Voluntary Health Association of India(VHAI), India Cancer Society (ICS), Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth (HRIDAY), and Consumer Online Foundation (COF), is organizing an event at Lady Hardinge Medical College auditorium, N.Delhi. The activities include an exhibition and panel discussion on the theme, skits by school students. Ms. Barkha Singh, Chairperson, Delhi Commission for Women will be the chief guest for the function.

Tobacco is the most common preventable cause of death in the world today. Globally 5.4 million deaths can be attributed to tobacco use, and it is expected that by year 2030 about 80% of these deaths will be in developing countries where tobacco use continues to grow in a healthy manner. Roughly 10 % of the tobacco smokers live in India, and if we include the chewers the data will more than double. Currently India accounts for a sixth of world tobacco related deaths.

According to a study published in ‘New England Journal of Medicine’ in Feb, 2008 smoking alone will cause one million deaths every year in India during the 2010’s. As per the estimates from the latest round of National Family Health Survey-3 (2005-06) 57% males and 10.8% females reportedly consuming tobacco in some form , smoked or chewed. More than a third of Indian men and about 8% of the Indian women chew tobacco in form of gutkha or paan masala, the prevalence is more in rural areas than urban areas. Among women, 0.5% in urban areas and 2% in rural areas use the smoking form of tobacco products and about 6% of urban women and about 12% of rural women use smokeless tobacco.

Further, in India about 6 million farmers are involved in growing tobacco and it provides employment to 36 million people. Likewise, more than 4.4 million people are engaged in bidi rolling, and majority of them are women and children. These are conservative estimates as bidi rolling is mainly a household activity, and the entire family is engaged.

Tobacco and Women
The adverse health effects of tobacco on men and women exhibit sex-specific differences and women have specific health issues due to its use and exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS). The adverse effects on reproductive health, including those on unborn child and the newborn are issues of grave concern for women.

Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy increases the risk of health and behavioral problems including: abnormal blood pressure in infants and children, cleft pallets and lips, childhood leukemia, infantile colic, childhood wheezing, respiratory disorders in childhood, eye problems during childhood, mental retardation, attention deficit disorder, behavioral problems and other learning and developmental problems.

In addition, the industry also engages a large number of women in tobacco farming and manufacturing and thus exposes them to a multitude of adverse health effects. Women working as tobacco workers suffer from numerous health hazards and various kinds of exploitation from the employers. Tobacco workers are caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, exploitation and helplessness. Low wages, poor returns, lack of alternatives and exploitation at the hands of middlemen keep them in perpetual poverty and debt. Bidi rollers handle tobacco flakes and inhale tobacco dust as well as volatile components of tobacco which put them at a high risk of cancer, chronic lung diseases, tuberculosis, asthma, eye problems, pains in neck and back, gynecological problems.

In order to protect the youth and women from the adverse harm effects of tobacco use and Second hand Smoke, Govt. of India enacted “Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA) in 2003. The Act also bans all forms of advertisement (direct and indirect), promotions and sponsorship of tobacco products.

In the report “Women and Health: today’s evidence, tomorrow’s agenda,” Director-General of WHO, Margaret Chan wrote “protecting and promoting the health of women is crucial to health and development – not only for the citizens of today but also for those of future generations”. Hence, recognizing the importance of reducing tobacco use among women, and acting upon that recognition, would save many lives. DS
‘World No Tobacco Day’ focuses on Protecting Women from Tobacco Use and Tobacco Marketing

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