Silchar, 23 February’19: Volunteers of the National Service Scheme (NSS) work on various social causes and those of the Assam University have taken up the cause of cancer prevention in earnest. Attending a workshop in the Cachar Cancer Hospital in Silchar today the Program Officers and volunteers of NSS units from more than 10 colleges made plans on how to reduce the prevalence of cancer in Barrack Velley.

NSS Program Coordinator of Assam University, M. Gangabhushan said that 50% of all cancers in men and 25% in women are caused by tobacco and in Assam the percentages are higher because of added usage of tambool which is also a carcinogen. Tobacco causes not only cancer but so many other diseases. He added that in Assam more than 34,000 people die per annum due to tobacco related diseases. It is not just the deaths, it is all those families who are also destroyed.

The workshop, organized by Sambandh Health Foundation (SHF) and Assam Cancer Care Foundation to sensitize NSS Officers and volunteers and to help them plan community mobilization activities. SHF Trustee, Sanjay Seth said “The tobacco epidemic is reversible. NSS volunteers represent youth power which once awakened can change the society. Not only will such campaigns make the volunteers themselves to refrain from using tobacco they can change the perception towards tobacco usage of the communities they work in.

Dr Ravi Kanan, Director of Cachar Cancer Hospital and leader of the Voice of Tobacco Victims in Assam, speaking at the workshop about the harms of tobacco, said that most of the patients who come to our hospital are there because of tobacco. Unfortunately they come at a late stage of cancer and hence the chances of survival are low. He added that prevention campaigns as the one undertaken by the NSS can change the prevalence of tobacco usage saving lacs of lives.

Dr Kanan also said that the Voice of Tobacco Victims (VOTV) is a campaign run by doctors across India to bring the anguish and suffering of tobacco “victims” to the attention of policy makers and public. VoTV has helped reduce prevalence in India.

The NSS plan to conduct a series of activities in schools, colleges and the community to create awareness about the harms of tobacco. Said Gangabhushan, since August 2018 many NSS Units have given the Pledge for Life to hundreds of students not to use tobacco. He added that NSS volunteers have also conducted street plays, conducted poster competitions and entreated vendors not to sell tobacco products near schools.

As per Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), 2017 the prevalence in Assam of tobacco usage is 48.2% of adults. While the prevalence of smoked tobacco (cigarettes & beedis) is only 13.2%, the usage of smokeless tobacco (tambool, gutka, etc) is an alarming 41.7%. While the prevalence of tobacco use in India has declined during the period 2011-17 by 6%, the usage in Assam has actually increased. Consequently the rates of cancer in the state are reaching alarming proportions.