Oral cancer is prevalent in coastal Andhra Pradesh due to the excessive smoking habits of the denizens here. Now, a dozen villages in the agency areas of Visakhapatnam are trying to get a tobacco free village tag.
Some of the villages vying for this tag have managed to reduce tobacco consumption at their places by 80-90%. The villages looking for the tag are RK Nagar and Pedagangudi in Araku, Damsarai, Mardaguda and Chukumadatha in Ananthagiri, D Kollaput, Narinjavalasa and K Kosiguda in Dumbriguda, Dabaputu in Paderu and Kunturla in Hukumpeta.
None of the shops in these villages sell gutka, bidi, khaini or other tobacco products. Director of NGO Nature reportedly stated that the last three years have been crucial as the combined efforts of villages, NGOs and the government has gone a long way in helping these villages become tobacco-free. The youth associations and youth leaders in these villages carried out awareness campaigns for the same. The government distributed information education communication materials and the NGOs spread public health messages. Village Sarpanchas and local religious leaders also joined hands to sensitise these villages.
The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Nature NGO research indicates that Lingavaram, Pongalipaka, Degalapalem, Balabadram, Bheemavaram, Gondhipakalu, Chinarajupakalu, Boyapadu, Bangarammapeta, Tunivalasa and Ramakrishnapuram villages in Andhra Pradesh have already been declared tobacco-free.