Seventy-four per cent children in Kerala use tobacco, according to a recent multi-site survey conducted by National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
A total of 119 children in the state, between the age group of 5-18, were covered as part of the study, conducted to examine the pattern, profile and correlates of substance use, a release said here today.
In all, the study commissioned by Working Group on Substance Abuse and Drug Addiction among Children under the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) reached out to 4,024 children across 27 states and two union territories, it said.
Children living in homes with families and children living in streets were included in the study.
"Alcohol, tobacco and inhalants are common initial substances of abuse and have been described as ‘gateway substances’. These substances are easily available to the children," the study observed.
"Moreover, they (these products) are not illegal and there is some form of social acceptance for their use. However, the use of these gateway substances increases the subsequent risk of transition to harder and illicit substances," it said.
A Shajahan, Secretary, state Department of General Education said, "Even while accepting that the sample veers towards a severe end of the spectrum, the findings regarding use of tobacco among children is highly disturbing."
"All educational institutions in the state have to take a note of this and strictly enforce laws of the land along with spreading awareness. Concerted action is the need of the hour; nothing should be left to chance,"he said.
P Vijayan, DIG (Intelligence) and State Nodal Officer of the 'Student Police Cadets' and 'Our Responsibility to Children’ projects said, tobacco use is a beginning to deviant behaviour and an entry to crime among all hardened criminals of today.
"One of the purposes of the SPCs is to equip and empower students to resist societal malaises such as substance abuse. Student cadets are also specifically trained to help in identifying the sale of tobacco and other harmful substances around schools," he said.