Governor sets agenda to monitor tobacco control measures in educational centres

Shri Justice (Retd) P. Sathasivam, Hon’ble Governor of Kerala, said that Tobacco control in campuses of higher learning will be made an item in the agenda at Vice Chancellors’ Meet held every quarter.

He said this during an interaction at Kerala Raj Bhavan with the activists of ‘Tobacco Free Kerala’ led by Dr Paul Sebastian, Director, Regional Cancer Centre and Vice Chairman of the Organisation.

Expressing concern at the growing affinity for tobacco products among youngsters and the increasing number of tobacco-induced cancers in Kerala, the Governor said that he will also direct the inclusion of tobacco control measures in campuses in Vice Chancellor’s monthly reports.

“Every month, Vice Chancellors send reports to me on any instances of sexual harassment, ragging and the like in campuses, action taken and steps planned for the future. Tobacco control measures in campuses too will be included in the monthly reports,” the Governor said. 

Dr Sebastian briefed the Governor about the extent of tobacco use and the harms it causes in Kerala. “An alarming 21.4 per cent of Kerala’s adults above 15 years use tobacco products in any form. Around 50,000 new cancer cases are detected every year, of which more than 40 per cent of cancers in males are tobacco-induced. The economic burden of tobacco use in Kerala is over Rs 1500 crore a year.”

Tobacco-induced cancer victims also shared their experiences with the Governor. Fisherman Saju K, a 34-year-old tobacco-induced oral cancer victim from Kollamrecounted how he started smoking in his early 20s as a means to fight chill while fishing.

“Gradually, I was drawn to smoking and I would smoke cigarettes in addition to using smokeless tobacco products. Tobacco use made me an oral cancer patient that changed the course of my life forever,” Saju said.

The group requested the Hon’ble Governor’s intervention for strengthening tobacco control in educational institutions, particularly in centres of higher learning, and in mentoring and directing to sustainable completion the plan to make three districts of Kerala models in tobacco control by adhering to the provisions of the Indian tobacco control law COTPA, 2003.

With a view to creating replicable benchmarks in tobacco control for the rest of the state and the country to emulate, District Collectors of Trivandrum, Ernakulam and Kozhikode are driving efforts to make these model tobacco free COTPA compliant districts. Police, Health and Education Departments are supporting the District Collectors in this endeavour to improve Kerala’s public health through effective tobacco control. 

Shri S Jayaraj, State Coordinator, Tobacco Free Kerala was also present during the interaction.

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