Dead Man Walking (Part IV)

The Role Models

By Pankaj Debbarma

May 22, 2024

Tripura ranks at the top in the consumption of tobacco and alcohol in India, a troubling reality with profound implications for its youth. This issue is particularly alarming when considering the role models adults play in shaping the attitudes and behaviours of the younger generation. The need for responsible role models is critical in combating the pervasive culture of substance abuse that threatens to consume the state’s future.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey -2 (GATS-2) presents a stark picture: 67.5% of men, 61.4% of women, and 64.5% of all adults in Tripura either smoke tobacco or use smokeless tobacco. This represents an alarming increase compared to the GATS-1 report and places Tripura at the highest prevalence of any type of tobacco use among all states and union territories where GATS-2 was conducted. The data reveals that 60.5% of cigarette smokers and 51.1% of bidi smokers in Tripura considered quitting smoking due to warning labels, and 48.2% of smokeless tobacco users thought of quitting because of these labels. Despite these warnings, the prevalence of current tobacco use remains high, with 64.5% of the population engaged in some form of tobacco use—48.5% in smokeless form and 27.7% in smoked form.

Alcohol consumption is also prevalent in Tripura, which ranks second in the nation for alcohol use. One-third (33.1%) of males over the age of 15 consume alcohol, compared to 6.2% of females.

Studies indicate that substance abuse seldom occurs in isolation; rather, it typically initiates with legal substances such as cigarettes and alcohol. Fuelled by curiosity and societal pressures, individuals embark on a trajectory towards more hazardous drugs, gradually becoming ensnared in addiction. This progression from legal to illicit substances is often subtle, characterized by a growing dependency and a deeper immersion into a pattern of substance abuse.

In the earlier “Dead Man Walking” part, we explored the tragic story of Khorang, a young man ensnared in the vicious cycle of drug abuse. His descent into addiction was influenced by the societal norms and behaviours he observed, a reflection of the broader community’s attitudes towards substance use. This narrative highlights the critical role that adults play in either perpetuating or combating these harmful behaviours.

Adults in Tripura must embrace their roles as positive role models to stem the tide of substance abuse. This means not only refraining from tobacco and alcohol use but also actively promoting healthy lifestyles. By setting a good example, adults can demonstrate that it is possible to lead fulfilling lives without relying on substances.

Educational institutions have a pivotal role in this endeavour. Teachers and school administrators should integrate comprehensive substance abuse education into the curriculum, emphasizing the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Creating a supportive environment where students feel comfortable seeking help for substance-related issues is crucial. Open dialogues about the risks and consequences of substance abuse can equip students with the knowledge and resilience to make informed choices.

Community leaders and policymakers must also advocate for stricter regulations on the sale and advertisement of tobacco and alcohol, ensuring these substances are not easily accessible to minors. Community programs offering alternatives to substance use, such as sports, arts, and vocational training, can provide young people with constructive outlets for their energy and creativity.

Healthcare professionals need to be proactive in addressing substance abuse. Regular screenings for substance use in schools and communities, coupled with accessible rehabilitation and counselling services, can help identify and address issues early on. Treating substance abuse as a public health concern rather than a moral failing allows for the necessary support and intervention.

In families, parents should engage in honest conversations with their children about the dangers of substance abuse. Sharing personal experiences and stories like Khorang’s can be powerful tools in these discussions. Parents must also be vigilant in monitoring their children’s activities and social circles, intervening when they notice signs of substance use.

The role models that adults play in Tripura are pivotal in addressing the state’s high rates of tobacco and alcohol consumption. By setting positive examples, promoting education and awareness, and advocating for stricter regulations, adults can help steer the younger generation away from the path of substance abuse. The story of “Dead Man Walking” serves as a poignant reminder of the consequences of societal neglect and the urgent need for responsible role models. It is through collective effort and compassionate guidance that we can hope to create a healthier, substance-free future for Tripura’s youth.

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