About 28 percent of the adolescents smoked in Bhutan according to a 2016 global school-based student health survey.

BNCA’s deputy chief programme officer, Chhimi Dorji said that youth are replacement targets, which means that they will replace those who die due to illnesses from tobacco use. So, schools, he said, are relevant setting for students to be aware of the effects of tobacco.

Themed tobacco and heart disease, Bhutan observed the world no tobacco day at Dechencholing Higher Secondary School in Thimphu, yesterday.

WHO’s medical officer, Dr Suraj Man Shrestha, said with decades of activism and awareness, the effects of tobacco use are well known.

“Among other life-threating diseases, tobacco use causes lung cancer, respiratory disease and cancer of the mouth and esophagus. There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco,” he said. “All harmful chemicals enter blood vessels causing cancer and travel throughout the body, affecting every part.”

He said that every year about 1.6 million people die due to tobacco use across the WHO Southeast Asia region posing threat to sustainable development.

Dr Suraj Man Shrestha said that tobacco could be controlled through demand and supply reduction. “There should be monitoring of tobacco use, protection from smoke, offering to quit, enforcing ban and raising tobacco taxes.”

He said that efficacy of control measures needs to be regularly assessed and revised. “There is need to study the reason for younger ones who have started smoking.”

Chhimi Dorji said that all four thromdes in the country are observing the day. “Most of the entertainment centres are located in thromdes. So, for effective advocacy, and as part of BNCA’s long-term strategy, thromdes are involved.”

He said that the thromde chose Dechencholing Higher Secondary School as it has the highest student strength of about 2,000 pupils.

Chhimi Dorji said that each thromde was provided with Nu 120, 000 to observe the day.

Health screening facilities such as determining one’s BMI and blood pressure were provided at the school. Art competition on tobacco use was also held.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the global tobacco epidemic kills more than seven million people each year, of which close to 900, 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke.

Rinchen Zangmo