Imphal, Jan. 31: The wives of the chief ministers of the region have decided to join hands to campaign for a tobacco-free Northeast.
The Union health ministry, in association with the state governments of the region, will launch the two-day Campaign for Tobacco-free Northeast in Guwahati in February.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who will be the brand ambassador of the campaign, will take the initiative to bring all the chief ministers of the region to the event.
During the programme, the chief ministers' wives will form a group against tobacco. It will be headed by Lal Riliani, wife of Mizoram chief minister Lalthanhawla.
L. Swasticharan, chief medical officer, National Tobacco Control Programme, Union health ministry, told reporters after the release of Global Tobacco Survey, Manipur Factsheet, here today, "The health ministry will launch the campaign in Guwahati on February 27 and 28. Tarun Gogoi will be the brand ambassador and play a major role in the campaign".
"The Mizoram chief minister's wife has agreed to head the coalition. They will work as a civil society group and a pressure group. The chief ministers are always busy. So we decided to seek the support of their wives," he added.
The Guwahati event will mark the beginning of many more programmes in the region. The campaign will include students' rallies, media workshops, testimony by tobacco victims and training programmes for implementors apart from constitution of the wives' coalition.
The Imphal factsheet release programme was a model of the proposed Guwahati event, where experts explained the dangers of smoking and consuming smokeless tobacco.
Two persons, who developed oral cancer because of consumption of smokeless tobacco like khaini, paan masala and zarda, shared their experiences with the audience. They could not speak properly or open their mouths but tried to warn the audience on the dangers of tobacco consumption.
A global survey conducted in 2009-10 with the help of World Health Organisation had found that the Northeast had the highest percentage of adult tobacco consumption in the country. The Union health ministry had conducted the survey in India.
Mizoram topped the list with 67 per cent against the national average of 35 per cent. Nagaland followed with 57 per cent, Tripura 56 per cent, Meghalaya 55 per cent, Manipur 54 per cent and Assam 39 per cent.
Swasticharan said the National Tobacco Control Programme has been implemented in the northeastern states, barring Manipur and Meghalaya. Manipur is gearing up to implement it.
Sikkim, Mizoram and Nagaland banned the sale of smokeless tobacco, including zarda, under the Food Standard and Safety Act 2006.
Manipur, where 44 per cent adults consume smokeless tobacco, plans to impose the ban soon.
A former medical superintendent of the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Y. Mohen, who conducted extensive search on cancer in Manipur, said of the 1,437 cancer patients detected in Manipur in 2010, 390 consumed tobacco. He said this number was quite high.