Doctors launch campaign for a tobacco-free Bangalore

The campaign is to drive home the message of avoiding tobacco.

Bangalore: With music concerts and counselling, a group of doctors here is launching a `Tobacco Free Bangalore` campaign Tuesday to drive home the message of avoiding tobacco to live a healthy life.

"Tobacco, on an average, causes cardio vascular diseases in about four to five million people each year in India," Vishal Rao, a cancer surgeon who has taken the lead in organising the campaign, told reporters.

Bangalore civic authorities, several non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Indian Medical Association, Indian Dental Association, and Karnataka`s Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences are assisting Rao and his team of ten doctors in the campaign.

The campaign will see counselling from 10 a.m. by doctors at the Freedom Park in the city`s central business zone, apart from a poster exhibition on health hazards from smoking or chewing tobacco.

There will music concerts in the evening.

"We have more than 40 participants who have registered for the event (music)," Rao said.
This is the first time that the group is organising the `No to tobacco` campaign on this scale, "although we have been working on tobacco control in Bangalore for the last three years," he said.

Rao, who moved to Fortis Hospital here three years ago after working at the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, said that after the campaign was launched, he and his team have been getting "a lot of enquiries from NGOs and other organisations to carry out counselling and awareness sessions."

The group also maintains a portal to spread awareness about health hazards from tobacco and to offer counselling to those wanting to quit the habit.

Rao was skeptical about the effectiveness of gory images on cigarette packs to discourage smoking.
Asked whether the pictorials on the packs are helping smokers quit, he said: "Absolutely not. The pictorials on the packets, like lungs x-rays, need to be interpreted by a radiologist; or like the scorpion image, they have no meaning. Plus, some beedi companies, which are small scale industries working in rural areas, do not even incorporate these."

Rao agreed that many youngsters were picking up the habit hoping to beat stress and warned this only weakened the body in the long run.

"Nicotine in tobacco makes the body secrete adrenaline and other stress hormones which may help fight stress, but end up weakening the body and lowering immune system. There are better ways to fight stress," he said.

On usefulness of tablets and chewing gums marketed as sure ways to quit smoking, Rao said: "Majority of consumers can quit by sheer will power. Tablets aren`t necessary. However, for people who develop withdrawal symptoms, these tablets are definitely useful for short term use."


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