Aizawl: The Mizoram government is forming Anti-Tobacco Squads (ATS) in all eight districts of the state to ensure that the ban on smoking in public areas is strictly enforced, an official said on Sunday.
The first ATS for Aizawl district has been constituted recently. It will meet here on Tuesday to finalise strategies to firmly impose the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (COTPA - 2003).
According to official records, Mizoram topped among all Indian states in tobacco consumption eight years back.
"Though COTPA - 2003 has banned smoking in public places, but the provision of the act was violated grossly," Jane R Ralte, state nodal officer-cum-project officer for `Smoke Free Mizoram`, told reporters.
"The ATS would monitor smoking in public and crowded places. COTPA also barred selling of tobacco products to teenagers under 18 years of age and sale of tobacco products near educational institutions," Ralte said.
The Mizoram government earlier formed a Smoke Free Mizoram Committee (SFMC), under the chairmanship of state`s Health Minister Lalrinliana Sailo and adopted a four-pronged strategy to make the mountainous state smoke-free.
The strategies are effective tobacco control and implementation of COTPA - 2003, massive awareness campaign for different groups in the community, increasing taxation on tobacco products and banning some tobacco-related products that are extremely harmful to health.
"A recent survey conducted by the Mizoram State Tobacco Control Society (MSTCS) revealed that 71.2 percent of the state`s little over one million population was addicted to smoking seven to eight years back. But the present figure stands at 55 percent, indicating an encouraging quit rate," Ralte stated.
She said the survey also found that 73.1 percent of the smokers want to kick the habit as they felt that smoking is the cause of many diseases, including cancer.