Mumbai: Famous Bollywood singer Shaan was on Tuesday announced as the ‘Tobacco Control Ambassador of India’ by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare here.
“Initiation into tobacco use happens in younger days. Considering the fan following of Shaan among children and youths, we are sure that he will help spread the anti-tobacco message effectively,” Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare B.K. Prasad said at a function at the Tata Memorial Hospital here.
The Health Ministry expressed concern over the increasing prevalence rate of tobacco use among adolescents in the age group of 13 to 15 years. “About 14.6 per cent of the youth between 13-15 years use tobacco,” Mr. Prasad said, adding that the percentage was on an increase.
He said the government will give maximum coverage and platform to Shaan’s song on tobacco control. “India loses 10 lakh people every year to tobacco usage. Which means 2,500 people every day die due to tobacco usage,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Shaan said that those who smoke or eat tobacco are also suicide bombers.
“Those who smoke harm themselves due to the smoke, they destroy their personality, self-confidence, environment; harm others due to passive smoking. They spoil their careers, family happiness.”
He also said it was a myth that people get a baritone due to smoking.
“Smoking only affects your voice adversely. It does not improve it,” he said, even as Tata Memorial Hospital director Rajendra Badwe nodded in consent.
Dr. Badwe said that stopping tobacco usage will lead to 50 per cent reduction in all the diseases in India.
“We get 50,000 new cancer patients in the Tata Hospital every year. Of them, 10,000 can be connected to tobacco in some or the other way,” he said, adding that tobacco can cause many other diseases and not just cancer.
“We should be inclusive in our approach to get rid of tobacco. Example, the farmer who grows tobacco should be given a viable alternative, so should the labourers be. I am sure the government is looking seriously into it,” he said.
The speakers also expressed concern about celebrities endorsing tobacco products.
Salaam Bombay Foundation director Padmini Somani said there was need to create positive peer pressure for not using tobacco products. Cancer patients narrated their experiences during the event and appealed to people not to use tobacco.
A journalist, touched by the function, offered to forgo his addiction for tobacco.
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