Each Year Tobacco Kills About 1 Million People India –The Country Fights Back
Chew it, smoke it or inhale it, tobacco in any form is a menace to human health. Scientists have identified some 60 carcinogens (cancer causing chemical compounds) in tobacco and its smoke, causing 10 different cancers. Approximately one-third of the adult population in India reportedly consumes tobacco in some form or the other. No wonder, every year, tobacco kills some 1 million people here. In view of its harmful effects, medical practitioners as well as social activists demand formulation of strong government initiatives pertaining to tobacco control in India. Below are a few alarming research findings that endorse their viewpoint:
• India is the second largest consumer and third largest producer of tobacco use
• Estimated number of tobacco users in India is 274.9 million
• Apart from cigarettes and beedi (Indian cigarette filled with tobacco flakes), cheap tobacco products in forms of gudakhu, mishri, gul, bajjar and more are widely available across India.
• Thanks to high level of oral consumption of tobacco, the incidence of oral cancer exceeds that of lung cancer in India. In fact it is reportedly one of the highest in the world. If current trends are allowed to continue undeterred, tobacco will account for 13 percent of all deaths by 2020, the international medical watch dog, World Health Organization (WHO) warned in one of its recent researches.
• According to The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), the global standard for systematically monitoring adult tobacco use, 48 percent of male population and 20 percent of the female population is addicted to tobacco.
• Prevalence of smoking and smokeless tobacco use vary with different regions in India. The total consumption is highest in Mizoram (67 percent) and least in Goa (9 percent).
• Tobacco use is more prevalent in rural areas than urban pockets. Consumption has been found to decrease with increasing literacy level.
• According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, some 36.9 percent children in India start smoking before the age of 10, and approximately four percent students currently smoke cigarettes, while 11.9 percent use other tobacco products.
National Anti-Tobacco Programs:
A series of legislations and policies reflect the government's determination to combat the evils of tobacco. In the year 2003, the government of India passed the landmark ‘Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act’, (COTPA). In addition to prohibiting smoking in public places, the law bans advertising of these items and makes the display of health warnings on all tobacco product packages mandatory.
Another praiseworthy initiative – National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP) — was launched in 2007-08 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with the agenda of building greater awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco. State Tobacco Control Cells and District tobacco control programs were set up, national level mass awareness campaigns were launched and several research and training programs were initiated as part of NTCP.
In 2012, the Information & Broadcast ministry made it mandatory for each and every film with smoking scenes releasing in the country to carry anti-smoking warnings. It further ensured that every film with a smoking scene must feature a 20 second anti-tobacco video, once at the beginning and once post interval.
The Way Forward:
While various activities relating to tobacco control in India have been successful in curbing the consumption of this carcinogenic substance, the nation still has a long and challenging road ahead. The country needs a uniform taxing policy, bringing both organized and unorganized tobacco manufacturing sectors in its regime. Most importantly, both government and non-government organizations should work hand in hand to mobilize masses, through community empowerment programs.
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