Filmmaker Shiboprasad Mukherjee addressing the news conference on Tuesday.

Kolkata: Notwithstanding nearly 1.5-lakh people in Bengal dying every year due to tobacco-related ailments, the number of people quitting tobacco consumption in the state is fewer as compared to the rest of India.

Not only this, the consumption of smokeless tobacco such as gutka, etc. has not almost declined at all in a span of six years.

Experts have blamed this on lack of awareness drive and non-enforcement of the anti-tobacco laws by the police and other agencies in Bengal to be the prime reason for this.

Sambandh Health Foundation, a pan India NGO that works against tobacco, on Tuesday told a news conference in Kolkata that while nearly 10 per cent people in India has quit tobacco consumption since 2010 till 2016, in case of Bengal the drop is only three per cent.

“In 2010, 38.4 per cent Indians used to consume tobacco and this has dropped to 28.6 per cent when the latest Global Adult Tobacco Survey-II was conducted. In case of Bengal the decline during the period is from 36.3 per cent to 33.2 per cent,” they said.

Breaking down the trend further, the NGO said that in Bengal smokeless tobacco consumption was 21.9 per cent in 2010 and it stood at 20.1 per cent in 2016.

“This is practically no decline at all as any figure below one per cent, in this case, is not considered an improvement. The state government must take this as an exigency and initiate an all-out drive against all forms of tobacco,” the NGO officials said.

Dr Suman Mallik of Narayana Superspeciality Hospital Howrah said that the lackadaisical attitude in enforcing existing laws is pushing Bengal behind in the fight against tobacco.

“Under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, police can take action for smoking at public places, advertising, and promotion of tobacco items, selling tobacco within 100 yards of educational institutes. Unfortunately, this is hardly done in Bengal,” Mallik said.

He stressed that the government must run a sustained campaign against tobacco all over the state and make sure that violators are punished as per the laws.

Noted filmmaker Shiboprasad Mukherjee, who turned up at the news conference to show solidarity with the cause, said that his upcoming movie “Konttho” (voice) has a message against tobacco in its storyline.

“As films touch a lot of people, we have used this medium to spread the awareness against tobacco use in our forthcoming film which is releasing in May. This is our way of raising voice against an evil that is ruining so many lives every day,” Mukherjee said.

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