Assam has more than 1 crore tobacco users and witnesses 34000 deaths every year due to tobacco-related diseases. National Service Scheme (NSS) has taken leadership in preventing youth from the epidemic of tobacco consumption. In this regard, a workshop on cancer prevention was organised for NSS volunteers Program Officers and Volunteers in Gauhati University, Assam. There were 70 Program Officers and 140 volunteers from 70 NSS units present in the workshop. It was a one-day orientation to train these Program Officers and student volunteers on ‘Pledge For Life’ campaign. The campaign aims at preventing youth from initiating tobacco.
The workshop was jointly organized by Gauhati University, Sambandh Health Foundation(SHF) in collaboration with Dr B Barooah Cancer Institute and Assam Cancer Care Foundation (ACCF).
Vice Chancellor, Dr Mridul Hazarika, Gauhati University present in the workshop said, “The problem of tobacco is a serious issue in the state. Students of Gauhati University also tend to use tobacco. This initiative will not only help NSS volunteers but also influence people in the community from initiating tobacco.”
Dr Ashok Das, Cancer Surgeon & Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV) patron from Dr B Borooah Cancer Institute said, “We are seeing youngsters coming to our hospital and getting diagnosed with cancer. I am glad to see NSS is taking leadership in saving youth. This will certainly help bringing the tobacco consumption down. In the GATS (Global Adult Tobacco Survey) 2017, prevalence in Assam has increased from 39% to 48% in the last six years.”
Speaking in the workshop, Dr. Ranjan Kakoti, Project Coordinator, NSS Assam said, “Gauhati University participated in the pilot and has been successful in mobilizing community. Now all units of Gauhati University will be part of Pledge For Life campaign.” NSS is making a difference by supporting ‘Pledge for Life’ (PFL) campaign. A Pilot was conducted from August 2018 to March 2019 with 60 NSS Units in the three Universities (Silchar, Gauhati and Dibrugarh). This pilot has successfully mobilized the community to protect themselves. Nearly 1,200 NSS volunteers did 260 events in which they sensitized more than 40,000 people on harms of tobacco through street plays, pledge taking activities, wall magazines, Debates and others. The PFL campaign will now be rolled out in the entire NSS in Assam.
According to the GATS 2017, Assam has 48 percent people (aged 15+) consuming tobacco in the form of smoking and chewing. Smokeless prevalence in Assam is 41.7% whereas smoking is 13.3%. More than 140 children initiate tobacco use in Assam every day.
Mr. Vara Prasad, CEO, Assam Cancer Care Foundation (ACCF), “Prevention is the best way of reducing prevalence and NSS taking lead will bring social reforms and prevent our future generation from these deadly tobacco products.”