Sahpuriya, a village at the outskirts of Jorhat in upper Assam is working to become the first tobacco-free village in India. Considering in Assam chewing tobacco with tamul (pan) is part of local culture, this is really heartening and courageous of the villagers.
A village of around 360 households. Initial initiative was taken by a resident of village who read about the ill-effects of tobacco. He got in touch with Tobacco Control Cell in Jorhat district. He teamed up with the District Nodal officer of the cell and started an awareness campaign on causes of tobacco on oral cancer. Many youngsters initially resisted their efforts as they felt the campaign was against the Assamese culture. But involvement of children in the campaign helped. As many children influenced their parents to stop consuming tobacco, after learning about the effects of oral cancer. Soon women joined the campaign. Considering many of the women in Assam also chew tobacco, this was a significant achievement, which resulted in a pledge by all 360 households on Women’s Day not to use tobacco in their daily lives.
The Global Adult Tobacco India (GATS India) Survey, conducted in 2009-10, reveals that out of the 274.9 million estimated number of tobacco users in India, 163.7 million Indians chew tobacco. The report also reveals almost 90 per cent cases in India are linked to tobacco. India has the highest prevalence of oral cancer in the world, with 75,000 to 80,000 new cases of oral cancers being reported every year and Northeast India accounts for more than 40 per cent of these cases.
In this scenario, Sahpuriya’s crusade leads by example. “It is great to see the zeal of the villagers given the fact that tobacco is a part and parcel of their daily routine. Thus we are trying to inspire them to take it further. If Sahpuriya succeeds in its mission, I am sure the rest of Assam will follow,” said a hopeful District Collector of Jorhat.
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