tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.


VHAI & Tobacco Control

The VHAI organisational structure is a federation of 27 state-level voluntary health associations that are further linked to more than 4,500 member institutions across the country.

The organisation boasts of a network of more than 1,00,000 health promoters and workers. VHAI, in 1988, established the first tobacco control network ‘Action’ involving 60 members comprising doctors, NGOs, scientists and researchers. Since then, the organisation has taken many initiatives towards building grassroot-level movement across India. The very recent step taken towards tobacco control by VHAI is Tobacco Control Programme by the name of PAT which is Partnership Against Tobacco and the APPLE project —Action Plan For Policies Politics, Legislation and Empowerment. The project has been launched in two phases. The PAT and APPLE project phase one was started in five states—Assam, Rajasthan, Orissa, Kerala and Delhi in August 2007.

The objective of project is to significantly strengthen tobacco control initiatives in India. Phase I was over by September 2008 and Phase II, as a successor to Phase I will significantly strengthen and upscale tobacco control initiatives in India, in existing five locations and five new locations of Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. The phase II of the project has duration of 24 months and began on October 1, 2008. The selection of states to start the project in some measures was based upon VHAI’s strong base in those states, past experience in anti-tobacco campaigns and state-level network of member organisations that are instrumental in spreading this campaign. “We also have attempted to work in all the regions of the country and so we have selected states in the north, south, east and west,” shares Dr Pramesh C Bhatnagar, Director- Communicable Diseases Division, VHAI

Multidimensional Approach

VHAI understands that tobacco control needs a multi-dimensional approach. Therefore, the organisation has initiated programmes with main focus on replication of best practices of existing and past projects and at the same time capitalising on new potential in terms of network, activities, campaign and spokespersons.

The organisation

Glimpses of VHAI campaign against smoking

co-ordinates the working of the state partners and provides technical support and expertise to them to deal with the problem in their states. It has also been acting as a medium between the state partners and the central Government to co-ordinate their activities and popularise tobacco control programme. VHAI has conducted a number of activities under this programme which includes capacity building, networking and mobilisation, national and state resource centres and mainstreaming of tobacco control programme.

Capacity Building

The organisation has been actively involved in the mobilisation and capacity building of state and district level NGOs and civil society groups on tobacco control at the grassroot level. Conducting capacity building workshops is given importance to sensitise coalition partners on agreed priorities. Consequently, VHAI has involved successful, local grassroot level organisations from non-tobacco/ health areas like sports clubs, senior citizens’ clubs, women’s groups, youth groups and cultural groups into the coalition on tobacco control. The progress of Tobacco Control Programmes (TCPs) at various levels is monitored by the state partners and VHAI. The monitoring aspect involves making sure that the work is carried as per the action plan. There are various kinds of training that is given to volunteers, VHAI staff and other personnel of the enforcement agencies. “We organise regular meetings, interactive sessions and training programmes for our staff by experts in the field,” shares Mukhopadhyay.

The focus is also on making the people working with the organisation aware of the law, its applicability and ways and means of informing people about the dangers of tobacco use. “At the grassroot level, work is going on in full stream. Our state partners are actively involved in the Tobacco Control Programme. They have been quite successful in educating the poor, the illiterate and rural sections of the society on the dangers of tobacco use,” shares Dr Bhatnagar.

Resource Centre for Tobacco Control

VHAI’s national and nine state resource centres act as a database and are referral points for organisations and individuals working on tobacco control. An important feature of the resource centre is knowledge sharing among like-minded agencies, NGOs, government agencies and regular monitoring of tobacco control activities in various states.

In addition to Delhi, the resource centres are located at Assam, Kerala, Orissa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya and West Bengal. The work of the resource centre is spearheaded by an exclusive website on tobacco control— Resource Centre for Tobacco Free India (RCTFI), an online information centre for all tobacco control related information. The website and its sub-domains use VHAI’s strong state-level network for knowledge sharing and information dissemination. The website has till date registered four lakh hits so far and is regularly visited by partner organisations, researchers, media and NGO professionals for latest updates on events and project campaigns.

Connecting to the Masses

Making a common man give up smoking and making him abstain from all other forms of tobacco is one of the major aims of the programme.

VHAI started public awareness campaigns to mobilise mass support and generate media coverage on the tobacco issue. It has taken the help of local celebrities like film stars, TV actors, activists and sports persons as spokespersons to garner greater visibility for tobacco control. Media has emerged as a pro-active and valuable partner for the organisation to disseminate the right message to the public and policy makers. “Overall, coverage on tobacco control issues in national and regional media has increased in Delhi and other states with regular publication of articles, interviews of civil society representatives, TV programmes and reports on events and meetings,” shares Mukhopadhyay. Information and visual education materials like panels, billboards, hoardings, posters are being in the process.

The organisation has also been striving to build a community-level partnership movement against tobacco for which in a large part of VHAI’s project settings Self-Help Groups (SHGs) have been involved in the community and the Panchayats (local self-government bodies) to establish smoke-free villages. “Many of the SHGs and Panchayats from these have taken pro-active sustainable measures to spread awareness and reduce tobacco use among their members,” shares Dr Bhatnagar.

Development of Advocacy Material

The activities don’t just stop here. VHAI and its states partners have been continuously producing information and education materials for perusal by researchers, NGOs, health professionals, policy makers and the general public to spread awareness about hazards of tobacco use, promotion of smoke-free zones, signages supporting the enforcement of smoking prohibition in public places and other related issues. The organisation published a comprehensive guidebook Civil Society Action for Tobacco Control, in four languages—English, Assamese, Malayalam and Hindi.

Challenges in the Way

Higher the social cause, greater are the challenges or so it seems the case here. According to Mukhopadhayay, some of the challenges being faced in the implementation of TCP are lack of initiative on the part of state Governments to make tobacco control a priority issue. “A laidback approach by Government channels, lack of expertise on the tobacco control issue at the local level are few of the challenges that we have been facing,” quips Dr Mukhopadhayay. VHAI plans to overcome these challenges by sensitising policy makers and the people, in general, about tobacco use and its harmful effects.

Success Story

Thanks to VHAI’s pro-active approach, the awareness level on tobacco-related issues have increased. “The states of Rajasthan and Orissa have received tremendous media support and have been highly successful. The people are quite knowledgeable about the dangers of tobacco use now and there is also a smoke-free law which bans smoking in public places being implemented since October 2, 2008,” shares Mukhopadhayay.

VHAI played a proactive role in the entire process of the implementation of this law. VHAI’s national and state teams organised media release events of opinion poll results on smoke free as part of advocacy efforts. “Currently, public places including Government offices, cinema halls, hospitals, courts, transport services, banks, hotels, airports, malls, restaurants, bars, educational institutions, libraries, public conveniences, railway stations and workplaces have been declared as smoke-free zones. All these efforts are a tribute to the fact that the common man has been indeed affected by such programme,” quips Dr Bhatnagar.

The creation of several no-smoking zones across the country is definitely a positive step. Such steps taken by the central Government with the support from organisations like VHAI has indeed brought about a paradigm shift in tobacco control in India.

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