May 31: World No Tobacco Day! GUESS WHAT THIS YEAR’S THEME FOR `WORLD NO-TOBACCO DAY IS’?

IT WAS WORLD NO-TOBACCO DAY ON MAY 31… and the theme for the short ad film competition was “Grow Food, Not Tobacco.” The 29 film entries all got a thums-up from the audience which turned up at the 5th Goa Anti-Tobacco Film Festival 2023 organized by the ESG in partnership Goa Dental College & Hospital and Directorate of Health Services at the Maquinez Palace auditorium in Panaji. Guest of honour was Delilah M Lobo (MLA) Siolim constituency, who is also vice-chairperson of the ESG; the other dignitaries are Dr Anita Spadigam, Jyoti Kumari, Dr Amita Kenkre, Dr Kedar Raikar, Peter Borges. All the winners of the ad film competition got awards and certificates in both National and Goa sections.

By Pankajbala R Patel

GUESS what this year’s World Health Organisation’s theme for World No Tobacco Day is? Grow food, not tobacco! Year after year after year more and more good Samaritans and concerned health organisations stretch themselves to focus on the legal evil that is smoking and chewing tobacco. At this year 5th Goa Anti-Tobacco Film Festival 2023 about 29 short films were screened to focus on the evil that is smoking and chewing tobacco.
The short films were screened at a function held at the ESG’s Macquinez Palace auditorium and all the films were educative, shocking, amusing, very creative in turns — one fact registered and that is in India 60% of tobacco addiction is in the form of smokeless tobacco! Meaning, young and old find it easier to chew khairi, gutkha, betal quid with tobacco and zarda — these packets of tobacco masala are easy to camouflage and sell in various deceptive names. Who cares that it is chewing tobacco which results in India having one of the highest incidence of oral cancer cases (including pancreatic cancer). Goa’s three addictive pleasure of the good life seem to be smoking or chewing tobacco, liberal use of alcohol and there are the trance music drug parties which so many domestic tourists come to experience with oftentimes fatal misadventures.
Who cares? Not those who earn big moolah growing tobacco in Gujarat which accounts for 48% of the country’s total tobacco production of 8 tonnes, the acreage has gone up by 116% in the last 19 years; followed by Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar, Tamil Nadu – these are the tobacco growing states. People may be poor with no food or junk food to eat (vada-pau!) but chewing tobacco is something even rag-pickers get addicted to in our big cities — I remember once asking a young rag picker at an tobacco addiction rehabilitation camp in Mumbai: Why do you do it? The teenager replied starkly: “Bhook marti hai!” (Hunger dies!)
Most tobacco chewing addicts are from the poorer classes of society. The children of the rich engage in smoking fancy cigarettes openly or secretively in private in like company. According to Roland Martins of Goacan, an activist campaigner with many years of experience, despite all the do-gooder anti-tobacco organisations efforts tobacco addiction is on the rise and not declining. In a survey his group conducted recently around the Panaji marketplace they found many brands of slim, temptingly packaged cigarette packs come from China, costing about Rs50 or so per packet! Young college students like to smoke these so called “slims” because of the perception that it is glamorous to do so if you want peer approval.
How do these Made in China cigarettes come to India? Stupid! It is legal to smoke and there’s no ban on importing cigarettes from China or anywhere. Cigarette smoking is a legal addiction and with such profits rolling in no government (except the New Zealand government) is going to pass a law banning either smoking or chewing tobacco. This is choice which is intensely personal and a fundamental right.
Which does mean we don’t have a slew of strong laws now in the country but they are rarely implemented for obvious reasons! Do you know that you can stop someone from smoking in front of you or in public vicinity? We are all protected from being harmed by what is called “passive smoker” by the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003! This law prohibits smoking in public and work places. Violations result in proprietors, owners, supervisors and managers of establishments paying a fine of – Rs200! Sale of tobacco products outside schools, HSS and colleges is prohibited…yet cigarette and gutka and innocuously looking packages are surreptitiously sold under various covers.
The real fact of the matter is as usual – how much money the merchants of death make even if they may be bribing all kind of politicians on the take, despite the hypocrisy on display overtly, covertly nothing is going to happen to end the business of killer addictions which also fuel the healthcare industry. Such is the society we live in today. We are all worshippers of mammon from top to bottom without an iota of real conscience! Only fake conscience!
Tidbits of interest: Do you know that Ahmedabad is the capital of oral cancer in India? That it was the Portuguese who first introduced tobacco cultivation in India as early as 1605? Initially, tobacco was grown in Kaira and the Mehsana district of Gujarat but given the profits accruing through cultivation of tobacco the practice soon spread across the country. Some say who cares if the rich kids smoke themselves to death? Let’s take care of the children of the poor who do all the dirty work in our cities – we need the poor more than the rich! It’s cynical but the truth is our healthcare system is in dire need of overhauling but this can come only with real governance and a fierce commitment to life and not death.
If this year’s motto for World No Tobacco Day is “Grow food, not tobacco” – then perhaps someone could start a series of canteens where the poorer classes may get decent or free subsidized meals? And here they may also be coaxed to rid themselves of the tobacco habit which will soon take them to dental colleges or local doctors’ clinics and eventually for surgeries in hospitals to be treated for oral cancer in various painful stages.
It is reported that tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year, Seven million deaths are the result of direct tobacco usage. China is the largest producer and consumer of tobacco in the world. More than 300 million people smoke in China and that’s nearly one- third of the population. If China leads the world in the tobacco industry, can India be far behind?

WORLD NO TOBACCO DAY FILM COMPETITION

THE Entertainment Society of Goa(ESG) and Department of Public Health Dentistry, Goa Dental College & Hospital, in collaboration with National Tobacco Control Program (Directorate of Health Services, Goa) commemorated World No Tobacco Day by organizing the 5th Goa Anti-Tobacco Film Competition and festal on May 31, 2023. The films were screened for the benefit of several invitees from civil society at a function held in ESG’s Auditorium 1 of the Maquinez Palace in capital city Panaji.
Amongst the dignitaries present for the event were Delilah M Lobo (MLA, Siolim Constituency and Vice-Chairperson of the ESG), Dr Anita Spadigam (Professor and Head of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Goa Dental College and Hospital), Jyoti Kumari (IAS, Chief Executive Officer, ESG) and Dr Amita Kenkre (dentist and professor, Goa Dental College). Also present were Dr Kedar Raikar and Peter Borges.
The competition with the theme of “We Need Food, Not Tobacco” was held in two categories: National Section Ad films and Goan Section Ad films. Altogether 14 and 15 entries were received, respectively, 29 entries in all. The jury members were Dr Meena Aras (Professor and Head of Department of Prosthodontics, Goa Dental College & Hospital), Dr Shaheen Syed (consultant physiatrist, Asilo Hospital, DNO, DTCC North Goa) and film critic Sachin Chatte. All the films were screened for the audience present and the winners felicitated and awarded with the prize money.
The winners in the National Section were: 1st prize winner Satish R Gaonkar for his film “Tinku Weds Madhubala” (Rs10,0000); 2nd prize winner was KickFairy Productions for their film “Alaav” (Rs50,000) and 3rd prize winner was Amit S Phadte for his film “Nirnay” (Rs30,000). In the Goa Section the 1st prize winner was Omkar Kalidas Naik for his film “Dhuvar” (Rs50,000), 2nd prize winner was Kartik Sandip Karekar for “Smoke & Soil” (Rs 30,000) and 3rd prize winner was Manmesh Kerkar for “Moment” (Rs20,000). The short ad films displayed a range of creative moods from horror to humor but effectively conveyed why young or old should not get trapped in tobacco usage in any way.
Speaking briefly on the occasion Dr Amita Kenkre Kamat welcomed everyone and said that the purpose of the Anti-Tobacco Film Festival was to help spread the message of how harmful tobacco addiction is for the user’s health and the effects it has on family and friends. The ESG in association with the Department of Public Health Dentistry, Goa Dental College & Hospital has been successfully organizing this festival since 2017 and it has become a calendar event now. Jyoti Kumari appealed to media to focus on social issues like the fight against tobacco cultivation and usage. Chief guest Delilah M Lobo observed that filmmaking and cinema is a powerful medium and the films of the competition will go a long way in educating and encouraging people to avoid tobacco. She asked for the film to be made available to persons like her in the form of pen drives so that she too could arrange for the films to be seen by a wider public. The films should definitely be seen in schools, colleges and other government department programs and constituencies. She praised the participants who had taken initiative to make the films for a laudable cause.

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