Indian schools will soon have tobacco monitors who will keep an eye on fellow students and also try to educate them on the dangers posed by tobacco products.
The federal Health Ministry is to take up a pilot project in which a minimum of 50 schools in every district in the country will be enrolled.
And each school will be allocated around Rs 8,000 for conducting anti-tobacco activities within the institution.
An official says students are being sensitised in order that they become anti-tobacco ambassadors of the future.
Gujarat schools already have tobacco monitors who are authorised to go through schoolmates' bags for tobacco products.
''We plan to have 30-40 high school students in every school, trained as monitors who will also act as peer educators deterring classmates from consuming tobacco products, both within and outside school premises,'' the official said.
Besides teachers were being trained in anti-tobacco laws and health hazards caused by tobacco consumption, so that they could in turn take the message to students.
Schools were also being asked to start anti-tobacco clubs, on the lines of photography clubs or eco clubs, the official added.
Minister of State for Health Panabaka Lakshmi said the modalities of establishing a Tobacco Regulatory Authority were being worked out. The proposed national programme envisages capacity building of the state in effective implementation of the Tobacco Control Act 2003 and training health workers and school teachers on the ill-effects of tobacco.
According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) released in 2003, which surveyed 50,000 students aged 13-15 years from over 800 schools, one in 10 schoolchildren were found to consume tobacco products; more than 48.6% of them had started smoking before the age of 10, the Times of India reports.
Over 16.9% of school kids were found to use tobacco products. Over 48.7% of these children were exposed to second-hand smoking, with only 50% of students having been taught about the dangers of smoking.
Ironically the ministry's 2006 survey found that school teachers could be no great role model in this regard.
The survey conducted with technical assistance from Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta, and World Health Organization among 3,629 teachers from 180 schools says 3 out of 10 school personnel (29.2%) use tobacco products - cigarettes, beedis and gutkas.
While over 50% of the teachers and clerks from schools in the north-eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura were found to use tobacco products, the number stood at almost 40% of teachers from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal.
What is worse, one-fourth (25.1%) of the school personnel reported smoking or chewing tobacco on the school premises.
Once again, teachers from the north-eastern and eastern states led from the front with the prevalence ranging from 15% in the central region to 42% in the north-eastern states.
While over 1 in 10 (12.8%) school personnel reported smoking cigarettes at present, nearly 2 in 10 school personnel (23.7%) reported use of tobacco products other than cigarettes. The report pinpoints the south, north and north-eastern regions as seeing an alarming trend there was no significant difference between the number of males and females using tobacco products.
According to the survey that took one year to complete, 6 out of 10 schools do not follow a tobacco-free policy. While 48.4% schools in the north don't allow smoking within their campuses, the number stands at just 22% schools in the east.
Nearly 4 in 5 school personnel reported never having received training to prevent the youth from tobacco use. Almost 2 in 3 school personnel reported their schools did not have non classroom alcohol control activities. They also said they had no access to teaching materials on tobacco.
The report, which will be released by Health Minister A Ramadoss on Thursday, concludes, "High prevalence of tobacco use among school personnel is alarming. Indication of increasing use among girls in some regions is a matter of concern. Passing the Tobacco Control Act in 2003 is a milestone and the need of the hour is effective enforcement of the law."