A board that read Tambaku Mukt Mantralayam aaple swagat ahe (Welcome to tobacco-free Mantralaya) greeted visitors at the entrance of Mantralaya. As the nation readied to observe World No Tobacco Day, the board at Maharashtra’s premier seat of power symbolised how the state was progressing in its tobacco control efforts. The board was also a strong reiteration of the state government’s commitment towards nurturing the health of its citizens.
In accordance with World No Tobacco Day, the Maharashtra government joined hands with NGO Salaam Mumbai Foundation to organise a three-day event at Mantralaya that encompassed different activities – each one taking another step forward in making the state of Maharashtra tobacco-free. The event that began on May 29 with a public exhibition, covered pictures and photographs from projects led by the NGO in conjunction with the state government. Posters spoke of the ills of tobacco and interactive games and activities formed a part of the display.
The highlight of the programme was the landmark moment when Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis and State Health Minister Dr Deepak Sawant took an oath along with the staff of Mantralaya to make the state administration headquarters and the state of Maharashtra tobacco-free. The event that began on May 29 with a public exhibition, covered pictures and photographs from projects led by the NGO in conjunction with the state government. Posters spoke of the ills of tobacco and
interactive games and activities formed a part of the display. It was attended by several other government officials including Mr. Mahesh Zagade, Principal Secretary, CMO, Maharashtra who inaugurated the function, Mr. Rajkumar Badole, Minister of Social Justice who opened the tobacco-free school model and exhibition. Dr. Ranjit Patil, State Home Minister was also present to support the initiative. He had interacted with the children and was enlightened about their perspective.
The Maharashtra government is a forerunner in tobacco control. It focuses on guarding its young generation. Towards this end, the latest move has been the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research, popularly known as Balbharti, including a chapter on tobacco control in the Class 5,7,9 and 10 SSC Science text books for the academic year. The highly appreciated move was a part of its efforts to ensure that children are provided with critical information about the ill effects of tobacco usage while they are still in school. These books were also kept on display during the World No Tobacco Day event.
The government has also shown praiseworthy commitment in taking strict action against the violators of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA). The event saw a major move in the direction when a toll-free helpline was launched to report any kind of violations of the Act. Dr. Pallavi Darade, FDA Commissioner launched the toll-free number on May 30 in Mantralaya. The general public has been appealed to call the number 1800222365 in order to report any kind of COTPA violations that come to their notice. Maharashtra has also become the first state to implement the Centre’s directive to ban the sale of tobacco and FMCG goods under one roof. It has also banned the sale of gutkha and cigarettes within 100 yards of educational institutions.
While the Global Adult Tobacco Survey Maharashtra released in December last year showed that there is a decline in tobacco use in the last seven years, its usage in the 15-17 age group has increased from 2.9 per cent in 2010 to 5.5 per cent in 2017. The mean age of initiation into tobacco use in Maharashtra has also decreased from 18.5 years to 17.4 years, indicating youth are starting tobacco use earlier. In the wake of such alarming statistics, the government’s initiative to work alongside NGOs and private organisations to change this situation is a timely move and it has received accolades for its efforts.
Speaking about the event, Tshering Bhutia, General Manager, Salaam Bombay Foundation, said, “The Maharashtra government has been taking praiseworthy steps towards making the state tobacco-free. From creating awareness among young children in school to ensuring that schools in the state themselves become tobacco-free, the state government is committed to its efforts to create a tobacco-free state. This year, on World No Tobacco Day, this event was arranged on the premises of Mantralaya, the seat of the state government and with a public notice officially declaring it a tobacco-free workplace. The initiative to keep our state tobacco-free will definitely gain momentum when we have government’s support in all our endeavours.”