Shillong, Aug 7 : School workers, including teachers and other staff, are important role models for students. Tobacco abuse often starts during adolescence and school teachers and other non-teaching staff can potentially influence tobacco abuse in students.
To plan effective intervention, it is essential to have information on the extent and the type of tobacco use among school workers, their attitudes towards tobacco control, and the existence of school health policies about tobacco.
The Indian Cancer Society carried out the Global School Personnel Survey (GSPS) which revealed tobacco abuse among school workers in the northeastern states is very high. Mizoram had the highest rate of daily and occasional smoking (76.1%) as well as smokeless (81.5%) tobacco use, while the minimum, in Nagaland (smoking 42.2%, smokeless 43.7%), was also high by all global standards and as compared to other parts of India.
"Among women, the current daily tobacco use variation was much more than men in both smoking as well as smokeless form," the report reads.
The highest current daily plus current occasional smoking among men was reported in Manipur (79.5%) and among women in Mizoram (76.2%). Even the lowest current daily plus occasional smoking prevalence among men (Arunachal Pradesh 45.2%) and among women (Tripura 9.2%) was high as compared to the other states.
"The prevalence of daily smoking ranged from 25.9% (Mizoram) to 12.8% (Arunachal Pradesh) and of smokeless tobacco use from 57.8% (Mizoram) to 10.7% (Assam). Daily smoking among men and women was similar in five states but not in Arunachal Pradesh (men 15%, women 4%), Nagaland (men 18.7%, 5%), and Tripura (men 18.6%, women 0.4%). In four states, cigarettes were the most common form of smoking (41-55%) whereas in the other four states it was bidi (34-53%)," the report said.
Cigarette smoking was reported more among women than men in four states - Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland. Over 50% of current smokeless tobacco users reported using betel quid in six states, except Mizoram (20%) and Sikkim (16%).
Interestingly, bidi or cigarette smoking in most of the northeastern states was more common among women than men, pointing to the fact that smoking among women is certainly not a taboo in the region unlike most other parts of India.
A large proportion of smokers reported smoking tobacco with ganja, the report said.
The study also revealed that betel quid was the preferred form of smokeless tobacco and is generally used more by men than women. Other smokeless tobacco forms like gutka, gul, snuff and tuibur were reportedly used more by women than men.
Thus, the GSPS findings reveal high prevalence of tobacco use, even among women, in smoking as well as smokeless forms. Over half the school workers reported that there was no policy on prohibiting tobacco abuse, either for students or for staff. They expressed the need for a policy to this effect for students as well as for school personnel.
The school workers also felt that tobacco companies deliberately encourage youth to use tobacco and were strictly against allowing such companies to sponsor sports events.
Interestingly, though over 40% of school workers reported using tobacco in one form or the other, they expressed support for increase in the price of tobacco products (32-64%).
Overall, the school workers of northeastern India were concerned about the adverse affect of tobacco on the youth and they supported formulation and implementation of tobacco-control policies.