Thiruvananthapuram: Studies have indicated that tobacco use is high among school students in Kerala and their accessibility was a matter of concern with experts demanding steps on a war-footing to control its use.
Studies conducted by Regional Cancer Centre here and Kannur Medical college point out that over 70 per cent of higher secondary school students began tobacco consumption at the age of 15 in Kannur, while a high 60 per cent of this group found tobacco sales near educational institutions in rural Thiruvananthapuram.
Shoba Koshy, Chairperson, Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights said these findings brought out by credible organisations underline the seriousness of the issue, and need for immediate steps to alert this worrisome trend of high tobacco use and accessibility by youngsters in the state.
The study by Kannur Medical College covering 775 students (336 boys and 439 girls) in two random pre-university schools of Kannur in north Kerala also found that 41 per cent of the study subjects got tobacco products from a nearby shop, and around 27 per cent got it from friends.
Nearly 79 per cent of surveyed students said it was “fairly easy” and “very easy” to obtain these products.
Nearly 19 per cent of boy students, between 15 and 18 years, use tobacco in any form and the prevalence of smoking is a high 18.15 per cent, the study found.
Dr Sushrit A Neelopant, Assistant Professor, Department of Community Medicine and Dr D Shilpa, Department of Radiodiagnosis, of Kannur Medical College collaborated on the study.
Titled ‘Tobacco Use among Pre-University Students in Kannur, Kerala: A Cross-sectional study,’ it has been published in open-access, peer-reviewed International Journal of Scientific Study.
Meanwhile, the study conducted by Regional Cancer Centre including Dr Paul Sebastian, Director, and Dr R. Jayakrishnan, Associate Professor in rural parts of Thiruvanathapuram, presents a similarly bleak picture.
Of 1,114 students across 10 random Government schools surveyed, 7.4 per cent were ‘ever users’ or persons who have used tobacco at least once during the academic year under analysis.
The survey was conducted in 2014-15 and the study– ‘Tobacco and Alcohol Use and the Impact of School Based Anti-tobacco Education for Knowledge Enhancement among Adolescent Students of Rural Kerala, India’– published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Addiction.
The Indian tobacco control law COTPA, 2003 prohibits sale of tobacco products to and by minors, and around 100 yards of educational institution