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Role of Media Stressed in Countering Tobacco Use

Thiruvananthapuram: Tobacco use in Kerala could be more effectively countered if the media supports to the police, said Kerala police chief T.P. Senkumar.  He was inaugurating a media workshop on the ‘Role of Media and Police for Sustainable Tobacco Control in Kerala’ organised by Kesari Memorial Journalists Trust and Tobacco Free Kerala, on Tuesday.

According to Senkumar, the media should take the initiative to better bring to the public’s notice the benefits of not using tobacco. “Sustainable tobacco control can be achieved in Kerala only through awareness campaigns to students on its dangers,” he said.

“Though social media, which is hugely influential, can be used for creating awareness, there are also several underlying threats. It is seen that while smoking is on the decline in Kerala, other dreaded drugs are in rampant use,” Senkumar said.

However, he added, social media is also prone to being misused – for such activities as the sale of drugs. “There are even cyber quotation teams functioning in the state,” he said.

Though there will be impediments, Senkumar said momentum must not wane. Recalling that he had faced hurdles when he imposed the ban on smoking in jails during his tenure as DGP (Prisons) – “the Home Minister received around 250 complaints in a month”, he said “as soon as the prisoners recognised its good effects there were no complaints”.

P.G. Sureshkumar, Asianet News co-ordinating editor, who moderated the workshop, said the need for joint efforts by health, police and excise officials along with the intervention of responsible media for effective tobacco control.  “A positive result can be achieved only if awareness is created that the use of tobacco is not only injurious to our health, but also for others around us,” he said.

Dr A.S. Pradeep Kumar, former additional director of health services (Public Health) and former nodal officer of tobacco control in Kerala, said, “The media should play a proactive role to inform the public about the products containing tobacco that are available in the market.

“There have been instances in social media, magazines and newspapers where products like e-cigarettes, which are more dangerous than ordinary cigarettes, were being promoted.”

As part of protecting children from the dangers of tobacco use, said Shanghumugham ACP Jawahar Janard, the police have formed school protection groups, installed complaint boxes, held tobacco control rallies and conducted Teens Mission Safety programmes with the help of psychologists and doctors.

“Statutory warnings against smoking will be placed at Kesari Memorial building and it will be made a smoke-free area,” said Kesari Trust president C. Rahim. “In following the example of their elders, the new generation is going down the same dangerous path. The use of tobacco by women, in particular, will have far-reaching consequences,” he added.

“Around 42 per cent of lung cancer incidence and 85 to 90 per cent of oral cancer cases seen among men in Kerala is due to tobacco use,” said Regional Cancer Centre Asst Prof Dr R. Jayakrishnan, who expressed hope that Kerala could be transformed into a model state in controlling tobacco use with the support of the police, the media, the youth and the society at large.