Lauding the efforts of Himachal Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (HPVHA), the International Union for Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, New Delhi and Department of Health and Family Welfare for the initiatives taken to curb the smoking habits of the people of the State, Health and Family Welfare Minister Kaul Singh Thakur, while presiding over the State level function on Declaration of Smoke Free Himachal at Shimla, said that it was difficult to change the society as a whole but not impossible and the State Government had achieved its goal in making Himachal Pradesh Smoke Free.

Minister said that the State had been declared smoke free in compliance to section 4 of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Product Act (COTPA), 2003 in a technical and scientific survey done by Department of Community Medicine, IGMC, Shimla and Population Research Centre of Himachal Pradesh University.

He said that in Himachal Pradesh more than 2500 panchayats of the State had complied to the provisions of COTPA and at present 93 percent compliance of the Act was being ensured by Education Department followed by 91 percent compliance by Health Department and 87 percent by Transport Department which indicates of the initiatives of the State Government to eradicate smoking and intake of tobacco related products. Apart from this, 57 Development Blocks of the State has also passed resolutions of their blocks being smoke free.

The Minister said that in hill States like Himachal, the people mainly in hard and rural areas believe that intake of tobacco products were part of their routine and help to keep them warm during winters but actually their myth is to be broken and they were to be made aware that as many as 2500 people die of intake of tobacco related products and alcohol, every day. The need of the hour was to educate and create awareness among the rural masses of the State and aware them of the ill-effects of consuming tobacco related products, then only we can claim of making the State totally smokeless.

Thakur said that the Government of Himachal Pradesh was committed to eradicate tobacco related products from the State and in the budget, 2013-14 the Government had enhanced the tax on bidis from existing 11 % to 22% and on cigarettes the tax was increased from 18 to 36 percent plus 4% VAT on each.

The Minister said that Bilaspur, Mandi and Shimla districts had ensured 92 percent compliance of the Act which needs to be enhanced 100 percent. He also lauded the efforts of HPVHA, International Union, the Department of Community Medicine, IGMC for initiating the measures to make Himachal Pradesh Smoke Free and said that Himachal Pradesh was the second hill State after Sikkim which has been made smoke free. However, the focus now should be to make homes completely smokeless.

Kaul Singh said that our health indices were far better from rest of the country but there always was a scope of its improvement. More is required to be done and preventive measures to be adopted to make State totally smokeless adding that the data so provided would prove realistic only if people voluntarily gives up the intake of tobacco related products and realize the ill-effects of smoking.

Minister said that the Congress Government in 1997 made a legislation named Himachal Pradesh Non-Smokers Protection Act. He said that together with HPVHA, Department of Health Services with help of International Union, Himachal Government introduced COTPA in 2003 and awareness campaigns were launched on large scale in panchayats and Gram Sabhas to make people aware of ill-effects of tobacco related products.

The Minister also gave away prizes to the departments who contributed in compliance of Section 4 of COTPA and signed a declaration making Himachal Pradesh Smoke Free.

Srinivas Joshi, Consultant, HPVHA gave detailed presentation pertaining to initiatives taken by the Association and revealed that as per survey 31 percent of children die due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the country because of passive smoking. He said that 2.8 percent children start smoking before 15 years of age, 25.6 percent between 15 to 17 years, 21.5 percent between 18 to 19 years of age and 59.8 percent between 22 to 34 years of age in the country. He said the resolve of HPVHA since its existence in 1987 was to eradicate smoking completely from public places. However, in 2013 the State has done well and achieved compliance of 85.42 percent as per COPTA.

Dr. Narinder Sharma, Executive Director, HPVHA also gave detailed presentation of the activities of the Association. Dr. Rana J. Singh, Technical Advisor, The Union South East Asia, New Delhi also spoke on the occasion. Earlier, Anuradha Panda, Member of HPVHA welcomed the Chief Guest and detailed about the working of Association. P.R. Ramesh, President, HPVHA proposed vote of thanks. Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Shri Ali Raza Rizvi, Director, Health Services Dr. Kulbhushan Sood, Principal, IGMC Dr. S.S. Kaushal and delegates from different departments from all over the State were also present on the occasion.

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