The Punjab health department would launch a state-wide drive to confiscate all those cigarettes of foreign brands that are not carrying statutory warning as mandated by Indian law.Presiding over a high level sensitizing meeting Punjab Health Minister Mr. Surjit Kumar Jayani said that while enforcing COTPA in the state we are targeting Indian manufacturers whereas foreign brands including Chinese brands were being sold in malls and in high end stores without any statuary warning.Asking all civil surgeons attending the meeting to supervise anti-tobacco campaign, the health minister said that it was official as well as moral duty of all citizens to ensure that Punjab emerges first tobacco Free State of the country. He said that we should be proud of the fact that we are living in a land which gave birth to Khalsa Panth and Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji led the Khalsa community to fight against the menace of tobacco.
He said that addiction of tobacco was a suicidal addiction where an individual fully knowing the fact that with every puff of cigarette or every pinch of tobacco, he was cutting short his life by few days and still was forced to carry his addiction. He said that tobacco control agencies would have to re-orient their campaign strategy as awareness about danger of tobacco was always there and now we have to find out that how can we free the addicts from self denial in which they were trying to live. He said that Punjab was proud to be the first state in the country that has led the nation in banning in loose cigarettes, scented tobacco, E-Cigarettes.
Addressing a concern raised by woman NGO Mira Aghi, behavioral scientist from New Delhi for requesting union government to enforce 85% pictorial warning, Mr. Jyanai said that Punjab was fully with union government for any measure that could reduce the consumption of tobacco in the country and hoped that all government agencies, NGOs, health bodies would collectively work to tackle this menace in the country. He said that it was matter of great concern that Punjab has 24 lakh tobacco users and it was horrifying to know that 50% of them i.e. 12 lakh could die due to tobacco. He said that though Punjab was a safer pedestal but we have to lead the nation in our war against tobacco. Mr. Jayani also suggested keeping a big box at the entrance of the buildings and hospitals so as to collect the tobacco products which should be disposed off in the presence of the in charge of these buildings.He said that all the government buildings are supposed to be tobacco smoke free and anybody entering the premises should be thoroughly frisked. He also appealed to people to throw away the tobacco products themselves otherwise strict action would be initiated against them.
Speaking on the occasion, Principal Secretary Health Ms. Vini Mahajan said that during the workshop all the policy makers, high level officials and other stakeholders have been sensitized against the ill effects of the use of tobacco in any form. They have also been asked to initiate a campaign against tobacco in their respective departments so as to tighten the noose on the tobacco menace. She also said that the Deputy Commissioners have already been instructed by Chief Secretary Mr. Sarvesh Kaushal to ensure strict implementation of law. She asked deputy commissioners to seek the help of NGOs to strictly impose COTPA and enforce ban on smoking in the public places strictly. Officials representing various departments were asked to appoint Nodal Officers for Tobacco Control so that inter departmental coordination can be ensured. All the relevant instructions should be passed on to district level officials also.
She requested police officials to me be proactive and include COTPA violations in Monthly Crime Review as is being done in many states. She said that a collective will of the people and the government has made "No tobacco campaign" a great success in Punjab leading to declaration of all 22 districts as tobacco smoke free on the basis of compliance report by PGI Chandigarh. Hoshiarpur city has been declared as Total COTPA compliant.
Mr. Hussan Lal Secretary, Health cum Commissioner FDA stated that strict action has been initiated and court cases launched under FSSAI for selling chewable tobacco and under Drugs and cosmetics act for selling E-Cigarettes.Dr. Mira Aghi sensitized the participants about importance of tobacco control. Dr. Rana from the International Union gave an overview of tobacco control in India. Dr. Sonu Goel from PGI dwelt on roles of all stake holders. Dr. Rakesh Gupta, State Programme Officer, Tobacco Control Cell, in his informative presentation enumerated the steps taken by government of Punjab to control tobacco/nicotine menace.Director Health Services Dr. Jatinder Kaur said that a special 3 day campaign was launched in March in which about 1000 eateries and 1000 points of sale for tobacco products were checked and action initiated against more than 1700 violators. Notices have also been issued to Tobacco product vendors for removal of Tobacco advertisements.Special award ceremony was also organized in which eminent persons were honored for their outstanding contribution in furthering the campaign of "Endgame Tobacco".