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Say no to tobacco!


Tobacco products in all forms should be banned in India to protect common people
AMIR HOSSAIN | Issue Dated: November 30, -0001, New Delhi
Tags : Tobacco | Global Adult Tobacco Survey | GATS |

In November 2012, we inscribed an op-ed requesting the Indian government to not just ban gutka, but cigarettes too, citing statistics that proved how the issue was far more pressing than perceived. We had even pointed out that "if the government is calculating revenue losses from banning cigarettes, which contributes 85 per cent to the revenue of the tobacco industry, they should crosscheck facts. As per reports by the Health Ministry and WHO, the government spent around $5 billion in the treatment of tobacco-related diseases compared to the $1.4 billion in revenue they received from the industry in 2002-03.” Surprisingly, the Indian government has not taken any major policy decision on this. There are a few states which have taken some measures against tobacco products but even these have completely kept cigarettes and beedis out of their radar.


A recent report by the International Tobacco Control Project (ITCP) has extensively outlined India’s tobacco weakness. Geoffrey Fong, a co-author of the report highlighted, “Compared with many countries around the world, India has been proactive in introducing tobacco control legislation since 2003. However ... the legislation currently in place is not delivering the desired results – in terms of dissuading tobacco use and encouraging quitting.” The report has also warned India that "the tobacco epidemic in India requires urgent attention" otherwise the epidemic will cause more than 15 lakh deaths by 2020.


The Lancet, the world’s leading general medical journal, documented a recent study that India ranks second in terms of tobacco users (275 million) after China. India has also acquired the shameful tag of being the oral cancer hub of the world. In the same light, the first Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) highlighted that around 9 lakh tobacco-related deaths occur in India annually as compared to 55 lakh across the world in 2010. Considering these facts, it is need of hour for India to take hard action against the tobacco industry.


Fourteen state governments took a historic move last year to impose a ban on gutka sales. The central government too is likely to hike tobacco prices every year to discourage people. In addition to that, smoking has been restricted in public places too. However, analysts criticse the government, by commenting that if the government really wants to keep away people from smoking or chewing tobacco, then why go through elongated policy measures to curb smoking in public places? One should simply ban the production of all tobacco products, and not just gutka.


An interesting example is of the state of Rajasthan. Last year in November, the state-level coordination committee for tobacco control had recommended to the Rajasthan government that prospective employees may be asked to sign an agreement that they don't consume tobacco products, before giving the offer letter to the candidate. On October 4 this year, the Department of Personnel, Government of Rajasthan notified all government departments “to extract an undertaking from candidates to the effect that they do not smoke or consume gutka while in government service.” Even the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot made an appeal to the public to quit tobacco. And then came the news that the government has taken a notable decision that only non-smokers can pursue their career under the state government. State Nodal Officer, Tobacco Control, Dr Sunil Singh, acknowledged the fact in media, “It's not only in India but probably the first time in the world that such a decision has been taken to discourage tobacco consumption.”While that statement may not be completely true (from Alaska Airlines to Hollywood Casino, there are many international firms that refuse to hire smokers), the intent surely is commendable. The Rajasthan government has shown the courage to bear an annual revenue loss of Rs.125 crore due to a tobacco ban. Now it’s the turn of other states and central government to save common people from the tobacco epidemic by taking immediate policy measures.

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Posted By: Sanjay | Ahmedabad | November 26th 2013 | 18:11
It's a welcome sign that our government is taking initiative towards banning tobacco products. Perhaps to eradicate epidemic of tobacco in any society, major responsibility lies in the hands of its citizens, to educate its upcoming generation of the ill effects of tobacco products and create a safer tomorrow.

Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017