Tomorrow, we mark World No Tobacco Day. The run-up to the day has already begun in Mumbai, with a number of events revolving around anti-tobacco awareness. Yesterday , the BEST got into the act with messages painted on buses, pointing to the dangers of smoking and advocating the need to say no to tobacco.

This initiative, which took place at the Wadala bus depot, is a welcome one because a public transport service was being used to spread the anti-tobacco message. This means greater awareness and more eyeballs for the importance of shunning tobacco.

Everybody reads lines like ‘Tobacco is injurious to health’ but it is only constant reinforcement of the fact, figures and statistics that can truly drive the message home.

A fact sheet released by WHO said, ‘The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year’, of which more than 6 lakh are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. On an average, 40 per cent of India’s population is suffering from cancer due to tobacco. WHO also says, 70 per cent of the people who develop lung cancer are the ones who smoke or are former smokers. Tobacco smoking is considered to be the leading cause of heart attacks.

With such dire consequences, everybody needs to step up anti-tobacco awareness measures, especially towards the youth. Often, we see anti-tobacco initiatives mired in controversy, like health warnings on cigarette packets, showing smoking in films, which results in a waste of time and energy. It is time different arms of society come together to spread the message. It is not just the responsibility of doctors, teachers, counsellors, media, TV and Bollywood, and others must make an effort all year round as well.

It is heartening to note that there have been some strides in cities especially, where the anti-tobacco advocates have been winning battles. With so many smoke-free zones, smokers are now finding their space shrinking. Yet, this is a constant battle that needs consistency and dedication. Let that be the sobering thought tomorrow.