Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Thursday, 20 March 2008

Tobacco warning for India's young

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi

Indian youth smoking a cigarette
India has been warned it faces a smoking-related health crisis

Nearly one in five school children in India use some form of tobacco, according to a survey conducted by the World Health Organisation.

A national smoking ban has meanwhile cut passive smoking by almost 10%.

The figures are part of the second-ever Global Youth Tobacco Survey, carried out in 140 countries.

The Indian report, released by Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, polled 12,000 students and 3,000 school staff in the first half of 2006.

Steady sales

The survey has thrown up some alarming results.

It says nearly 17% of students aged 15 and under use some form of tobacco, most of them cigarettes.

Significantly, there is no difference in consumption levels among girls and boys, except in central India.

"Indication of increasing use among girls in some region is a matter of concern," the report says.

What has alarmed administrators is that more than a third of school personnel, including teaching staff, use tobacco.

As role models, they should play an influential role in preventing tobacco use among their students rather than encouraging the practice, the report says.

And despite a countrywide ban, sale of tobacco and tobacco products to minors have shown no decline over the past three years.

'Positive impact'

There is some encouraging news for the government.

A ban on public smoking has seen a significant decline in exposure to second-hand smoke (passive smoking) from 49% to 40%.

The percentage of those who light their first cigarette below the age of 10 has also come down from 49% to 37%.

The report praises the government for creating a "positive impact" by enforcing a ban on smoking in public places and raising awareness among young people.

But, the report says, more must be done to control tobacco advertisement and teachers appropriate training and material to discourage smoking.

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