We've all become accustomed to seeing those disgusting images on cigarette and tobacco packaging, but it's important to realise that that is a real and very possible outcome for a lot of heavy tobacco users. In India, more so than most other countries.
According the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, almost 275 million Indian adults, nearly 35% of the population, are consuming tobacco products here. A big majority of these people are consuming "smokeless tobacco", which means that it is chewed or sucked in the mouth, instead of smoked. Once they're done chewing, users generally spit the built-up tobacco juices out, which creates the oh-so-recognisable red stained walls we see in public spaces in this country.
While it's no secret anymore that tobacco affects the individual in a host of terrible, life-threatening ways, tobacco use is also affecting national economies, because of increased healthcare costs and decreased productivity. And despite India's ban on tobacco advertising and smoking in public places, the country is still one of the weakest in the world at reducing people's tobacco use.
HRIDAY (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth) in Delhi is a collective of health professionals, social scientists and lawyers, engaged in awareness, advocacy and research. Their project MYTRI demonstrated the effectiveness of school based interventions in reducing tobacco use by among Indian youth, not only reducing their current and future intentions to use tobacco, but by enhancing and encouraging their health advocacy skills.