Mumbai, School students in eight districts of Maharashtra have become anti-tobacco crusaders for creating awareness about the ill effects of consuming tobacco. School children were administered an oath under a sustained campaign ‘Pledge for Life’ started in the state to make schools tobacco free and make teachers and students ‘Say No to Tobacco’ and become ambassadors to spread this message in the society. 26.5 lakh students from more than 25,000 schools in eight districts took this anti-tobacco pledge.
Vishal Solanki, Education Commissioner, Maharashtra said “We are committed to provide a safe and tobacco free environment in our schools. Through engagement of teachers and students in periodic activities where the key message of not consuming tobacco is reinforced, attitudes and habits will be positively impacted and lead to healthier adults.”
Working collaboratively with the Maharashtra Education Department, Sambandh Health Foundation (SHF), a national NGO working in anti-tobacco advocacy, has launched a sustained campaign Pledge for Life. In this campaign, a series of engagement activities for teachers and students will be undertaken to reduce tobacco usage and addiction and its negative health consequences.
As a first activity under this campaign, an anti-tobacco film was shown to teachers and students on the occasion of World Head and Neck Cancer Day on July 27. This was followed by an anti-tobacco pledge, which was taken by 26.5 lakh students from over 25,000 schools in eight Districts of Maharashtra.
According to the Education Department, 851,947 students in Jalgaon district, 558,393 students in Nashik district, 380,000 students in Amravati district, 237,000 students in Akola district, 204,000 students in Nagpur district, 197,192 students in Chandrapur district, 140,275 students in Buldhana district and 76,984 students in Wardha district participated in this campaign.
The Education Department in Pune, the District Education Officers & teachers and the Rotary International District RID 3030 played an active role in promoting and executing this activity.
After the success of this campaign in eight districts of Maharashtra, this activity will be further implemented in all remaining districts of the state in the current academic year.
The campaign will influence students in the vulnerable age to not get lured towards tobacco addiction and also carry this important message to their families & communities. These students will thus help in building “Swachh Bharat, Swasth Bharat & Samarth Bharat”.
As per Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2017, 2.4 crore people in Maharashtra use tobacco (2.0 crore use chewing tobacco and 0.4 crore are smokers). This has major health impact on both users and non-users. 45,000 users die annually due to diseases attributed to tobacco. 530 children are introduced to some form of tobacco every day and one amongst four children in classes 8, 9 & 10th get addicted.
Dr Govind Mantri, Rotarian and Project Chairman, Voice of Tobacco Victims (VOTV) Patron and Senior Oncologist said “2.4 crore adults in Maharashtra use tobacco; more worrying is that 530 children are initiated every day into tobacco usage. Since quit rates are low, this leads to a huge problem of tobacco related
major illnesses like cancer and mortality. Tobacco users also adversely affect health of non-users. Prevention is better than cure and we are very pleased that Education Department is carrying out activities directed at prevention.”
Deepak Chhibba, Head of Projects, Sambandh Health Foundation (SHF) said “Pledge for Life is a sustained campaign where we will work with the Education Department and teachers to help curb the tobacco menace.”