Tobacco kills and creates poverty
Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, cancer surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital and leading tobacco control advocate on the importance of the fight against tobacco and what more needs to be done.
1. Why is the fight against tobacco important?
Tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death worldwide. It takes away the lives of 10 lac (100,000) Indians every year. There is a huge economic burden attributable to this (1.04 lac crores per year). It is also a cause for creating poverty. Hence, it is important to fight against this deadly evil in the society.
2. What is the theme for World no Tobacco day 2016?
Theme this year is: Plain Packaging
3. What are your plans for the day?
Doctors who volunteer for Voice of Tobacco Victims campaign will hold awareness activities in their respective hospitals which will include advocacy for enforcement of new guidelines for pack warning.
4. What is the current status of packaging of tobacco products in India?
India on 1st April 2016 has implemented 85% pictorial pack warnings on all tobacco products. As on today(12th April 2016), the packets in market still have the old packaging. There are products worth 300 crores seized by the FDA for non-compliance in Maharashtra, 9 crores in Goa and there are many other states where products have been seized.
5. Do you expect any changes being implemented to the packaging? If yes, when?
Earlier India had 40% of pack warnings on one side of the tobacco products. India on 1st April 2016 has implemented 85% pictorial pack warnings on all tobacco products.
6. Do you think plain packaging will reduce tobacco sales? Why?
Yes it will reduce tobacco sales because it will make cigarettes/beedis into a generic product and disallow brand being built around the product names. Currently, the font, colour size are part of the brand.
7. Beedis have plain packaging but continue to do well. Why?
Beedi is not a growing market. It is a poor man’s product. What is sustaining the beedi market is the nicotine addiction. It has a large existing market which continues.
8. What impact does banning smoking in public places have?
Banning smoking in public places has saved the innocent people who do not smoke but were still being harmed by the smoke! There are many patients whose cancers are due to passive smoking. It also reduces the avenues for people to smoke, which in itself curbs consumption. Smoking in public places in prohibited as per The Cigarette and other Tobacco Products Section 4.
9. What is the death toll in India due to tobacco?
10 lac (100,000) Indians die every year due to tobacco consumption.
10. How is India doing in its fight against tobacco use? What needs to be done?
There has been a lot of change in the last 4 years such as Gutka ban, Chewing tobacco ban, Amendment in Juvenile Justice Act , Legal Metrology Act, COTPA implementation etc. The awareness levels in the population have become much more than earlier. Our ultimate goal should be to bring the prevalence down. This requires stricter implementation of COTPA and other acts mentioned above.
11. Have there been any successes in the public education programmes? What has been the failure of the public education programmes?
Government funded public awareness programs have been sporadic, however, the film rules have been most effective in creating awareness in every cinema hall, theatre, TV channels etc.
12. Are there good programmes in India to support cessation of smoking? What is required for this?
India does have cessation clinics. However we need to work harder to make cessation available easily at affordable price. In India, people who are able to quit are only 3-4%.