Career Opportunities in Tobacco Control

By Ranjan K Baruah

One of the health issues in India and around the world is health problems due to consumption of tobacco and its products. Tobacco kills up to half of its users around the world. It kills more than 8 million people each year and more than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Over 80% of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.
There is no doubt that the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. Cigarette smoking is the most common form of tobacco use worldwide.
Other tobacco products include waterpipe tobacco, various smokeless tobacco products, cigars, cigarillos, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco, beedis, gutkha, etc. Smokeless tobacco contains many cancer-causing toxins and its use increases the risk of cancers of the head, neck, throat, esophagus and oral cavity (including, cancer of the mouth, tongue, lip and gums) as well as various dental diseases.
Government of India launched the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) in the year 2007-08 during the 11th Five-Year-Plan, with the aim to (i) create awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco consumption, (ii) reduce the production and supply of tobacco products, (iii) ensure effective implementation of the provisions under “The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003” (COTPA) (iv) help the people quit tobacco use, and (v) facilitate implementation of strategies for prevention and control of tobacco advocated by WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control.
The National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC) at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) is responsible for overall policy formulation, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the different activities envisaged under the NTCP.
Let us talk about something from career perspectives. When we see tobacco use as a public health hazard means lots to be done to control it.
When we talk about career options with the areas then it would include government sector as well as private sectors and more importantly social organization and nongovernmental organization.
Aspirants may join government programmes like NTCP. Scopes are there for health professionals like doctors, nurses and health educators. 31st May is observed as World No Tobacco Day around the world. There are opportunities for aspirants who are creative to be in information dissemination and awareness raising programmers of different organizations who are focused in tobacco control. There are options for legal experts too as there are many laws related with tobacco products which need to be educated amongst the masses through various media.
International organizations like the World Health Organization have different programmes related to tobacco control where aspirants may join and get engaged.
There are opportunities for people who are associated with drama or puppetry or traditional media to generate awareness amongst rural masses especially in countries like India.
Now readers may be wondering whether there are any special courses to work in the field of tobacco control. Well, there is no such direct course but there are short term programmes for people who want to work against tobacco.
A Master in Social Work or similar course helps one to get engaged in the development sector easily. For creative activities in tobacco control it is preferred that aspirants come from journalism or mass communication subjects.
To become a counselor it is preferred to study psychology or similar courses.
Apart from the qualification and degree one needs to be passionate and ready to work in different situations as working with tobacco users is always challenging.
There are different opportunities and fellowships available for young people and experienced people who want to work in this field. We can together end tobacco and if someone chose it as a career then they are not only working but also helping many families directly or indirectly.
(Ranjan K Baruah is a career mentor and skill trainer and can be reached at 8473943734 or [email protected] for any career queries)

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