Tobacco Control In India: The Problem and The Government’s Role In Fighting The Menace

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Consumption of tobacco in smoke or smokeless form is an epidemic that is threatening the entire world. Each year 5.4 million people all over the world die due to tobacco related ailments such as heart ailments, lung cancer and other diseases. According to a report by WHO, it has been estimated that around 1 billion people around the globe will die in the 21st century due to smoking. If tobacco abuse is not curbed and if the trend continues, the deadly stuff will result in more than 8 million deaths by 2030.. And, 80 percent of these mortalities will occur in low and middle-income nations, such as India. Reports say that tobacco kills around 1 million in India every year. Indians addicted to cigarettes and bidis die 6-10 years before non-smokers. This shows that we need more stringent measures pertaining to tobacco control in India. Then, what is the extent of this menace and what steps has the Indian government taken to motivate people quit smoking? Let’s read on to find out.

Tobacco Control In India: The Problem and The Government’s Role In Fighting The Menace

The Problem in India

Data shows that India stands second largest in terms of tobacco consumption and third largest in terms of production. Tobacco is not only manufactured and consumed in India, but is also exported to several other nations. The problem in India is complex as low-priced cigarettes and smokeless products are often bought by people belonging to low-income groups. Consequently, it affects a family’s health, wellness and standard of living. Besides cigarettes, tobacco is also consumed in the form of khaini, gutkha, gul, gudakhu, etc. According to the National Family Health Survey, covering 92,486 families and 26 states, it was found that 30 percent of the populace (15 years and above) smoked or consumed tobacco in chewable form. This included 47 percent males and 14 percent females which come to 154 million males and 41 million females.

The findings of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) show that the situation in our country is extremely shocking. Some of the findings are as follows:

  • Tobacco intake in our country is very high. Almost 35 percent of Indian adults consume tobacco in smoke or smokeless form.
  • The rate of consumption among Indian men is 48 percent and women 20 percent
  • Mizoram is the highest consumer of tobacco and Goa records the lowest at 9 percent
  • The consumption of the deadly stuff is higher in the rural areas than in the cities
  • The prevalence of tobacco use reduces with the increase of awareness and education

How the Indian Government Has Helped

The Indian government has been proactive in fighting the tobacco menace since 2003. Our government has passed the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution), Act, i.e. COTPA 2003. The main aspects of the COTPA include:

  • Prohibition of smoking in public places such as educational institutions, office buildings, hospitals, restaurants, amusement centers, libraries and public transport
  • No sale of tobacco products to underage children
  • Prohibition of advertisement of tobacco products in direct or indirect form
  • testing of tobacco products for nicotine and tar measures should be done government recognized labs only
  • Compulsory display of pictorial warnings on cigarettes packets and other tobacco products
  • Ban on tobacco sale within 100 yards of educational institutions

Implementation

COTPA has inspired Chandigarh to say no to tobacco. Chandigarh was the first city to become smoke-free. This achievement in 2007 was followed by Sikkim in 2010.  Howrah in West Bengal has also been proactive in controlling tobacco use. Display of tobacco-related health warnings is 13.6 percent in Howrah. However, violation of anti-tobacco laws is rampant in our country.

Our efforts to implement laws pertaining to tobacco control in India should be relentless and continuous. Violators should be dealt with strictly and heavy monetary penalties need to be implemented. It’s not only the responsibility of the government, but also of the civil society to fight the problem. Let’s work towards a smoke-free India.