New Delhi: The World No Tobacco Day witnessed the culmination of an awareness campaign ‘Spit Free India’ launched by Manipal Hospital, Dwarka. With strong and appealing messages like ‘Tobacco-free Youth’ and ‘pledge4life’ – the campaign received a huge response, especially from the youth. The campaign was supported by Sambandh Health Foundation and led by Dr Vedant Kabra, Head, Department of Surgical Oncology, who emphasised that ‘Spit Free India’ is a necessity for protection against many infectious diseases such as TB and now COVID-19. It would help us lead a healthy life.
Manipal Hospitals, Delhi initiated the campaign through a web campaign with pledge4life.org and urged people to spare a couple of minutes to watch a short video and answer a few questions such as ‘Are you aware that spitting in public places is a punishable offence?’ The campaign has so far received anencouraging response. People who submitted the answers also got a Certificate for creating awareness. Manyof them encouraged others also to support the campaign. “We are encouraged with the response to the campaign and we would continue this for a longer period,” said Dr Kabra.
“Spitting in public is not only discourteous to those around us but also unhygienic and promotes the spread of many diseases including COVID-19. To make our country cleaner and healthier, there is an urgent necessity to create awareness among people, especially youth. Consumption of Paan (betel leaf), Gutka, Khaini, Tambaku and supari (areca nut) compel people to spit anywhere. This habit putsothers at high risk of infectious diseases. Moreover, these tobacco products have been classified by the world health organization as being ‘carcinogenic to humans,” added Dr Kabra.
Tobacco is closely associated with killer diseases heart attacks, stroke, cancers, diabetes, chronic respiratory problems, impotence etc. According to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), chewing/ smokeless tobacco products (Gutkha, ‘Paan masala’ with tobacco, ‘Paan’ and other chewing tobacco products) and (supari) increase the production of saliva followed by a very strong urge to spit. Thus, ICMR has urged to refrain from consuming smokeless tobacco products and spitting in public places that can help in preventing / decreasing many infectious disease. In the present time with COVID-19, it becomes even more relevant.
“We have been witnessing that majority of deaths due to COVID-19 have occurred in patients with comorbidities like diabetes, chronic kidney issues, cancer, hypertension and heart-related problems. Tobacco is a common major risk factor for all these conditions. Tobacco spitting in public places could enhance the spread of COVID-19. Hence, we need to expand mass awareness as implementation of punitive action would be a logistic challenge as well as it is unlikely to be a major deterrent,” emphasized Dr Kabra.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, in its April 15 guideline, banned spitting in public places under disaster management act, 2005. Spitting in public is already an offence under municipal laws in various municipalities across the country. But due to lack of awareness about its wider implications people continue with this age-old habit. It is high time to “Say No to Tobacco and Spitting”.