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Panchayats to Play Vital Role in Tobacco Control

Thiruvananthapuram: Local bodies in Kerala will join hands in the fight against tobacco use, furthering tobacco control measures taken up by the districts. This development comes on the heels of the inclusion of tobacco control as a regular agenda item in the monthly District Development Council meetings chaired by the District Collectors.

Representatives of 200 selected Panchayats from all 14 districts of Kerala agreed to intensify tobacco control measures at an orientation session after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan launched the project ‘Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in Kerala’ here on August 30.

Rajeev Sadanandan, Kerala Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, called upon Panchayats in Kerala to place emphasis on preventing tobacco use initiation by youngsters. There should be no laxity in enforcing legislations that prohibit sale of tobacco products to children, he said while speaking in a technical session titled ‘Role of Panchayats in prevention and control of NCDs in Kerala.

Health experts also endorsed the same view. Dr V Ramankutty, Professor, Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies of Sree Chitra Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), urged Panchayats to play a key role in law enforcement, awareness generation, and rehabilitation to rein in tobacco use in Kerala. Any existing lapses in implementation of Indian tobacco control law COTPA, 2003 can be set right with the involvement and participation of local bodies, he said.

Panchayats can also work for strict implementation of legal provisions preventing the use of pan parag, sambhu and the like by children; strong implementation of COTPA around educational institutions besides display of statutory warning messages in educational institutions and other public places, Dr Ramankutty said in his session on ‘Tobacco Control and Alcohol Control at Panchayat level’.

Occasions such as World No Tobacco Day, World Health Day can be used to spread awareness through mass runs or street plays. Enlisting the support of well-known sportspersons or artists can also help to spread the message. Panchayats can also take initiative in setting up tobacco de-addiction centres to help those who want to quit tobacco use, Dr Ramankutty added.

Dr KR Thankappan, Prof and Head, Achutha Menon Centre and Vice Chairman, Tobacco Free Kerala emphasised the importance of healthy diet and physical activity promotion by Panchayats. Dr. Asha Kishore, Director, SCTIMST; KM Chandrasekhar, President, SCTIMST; Dr. B Ekbal, Member, Kerala State Planning Board; and Dr. R. Ramesh, Director of Health Services, GoK also spoke. The NCD Project is a joint initiative of Achutha Menon Centre and Health Department, GoK.