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World No Tobacco Day 2016: How equipped is India to be tobacco-free?

– Tobacco kills 6 million people globally every year.

– India is the second largest consumer of tobacco in the world.

– Every year 1 million Indians die due to tobacco-related diseases.

– India accounts for one-third of oral cancer cases in the world.

GoBarefoot: To mark the 29th World Tobacco Day, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India and WHO Country Office for India, in collaboration with HRIDAY (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth), organised an event in Delhi to discuss tobacco control measures in India and the way forward in reducing usage.

With the Supreme Court ordering 85% pictorial warning on tobacco packets, this was termed as just a small victory in the journey to make India tobacco-free.

Speaking at the event, JP Nadda, Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, stressed on creating awareness amongst youngsters about the health implications of tobacco and urged NGOs and civil society organisations to adopt schools to sensitise children.

“Catch them young,” said Nadda. “If you educate a youngster, he/she will not only avoid usage but can also influence adult family members to quit. Currently, 35% of Indian population is affected by tobacco use. We are planning to launch 20 state and 50 tertiary-level cancer institutes in the country but it is more important to prevent usage of tobacco, else it won’t be difficult to fill these hospitals.”

“In one year’s time all schools should have posters listing the harmful effects of tobacco,” he said and launched a National Tobacco Cessation Quitline (1800-11-2356) to support users to quit tobacco.

However, Nadda also highlighted how some states are yet to implement laws related to the ban of sale of tobacco near schools.

With this year’s theme for No Tobacco Day being ‘Get Ready for Plain Packaging’, WHO Representative to India, Dr. Henk Bekedam highlighted how the economic burden of tobacco usage in India is over Rs. 100,000 crores.

According to a recent study by PHFI (Public Health Foundation of India), over 80% respondents felt that plain packaging and 85% pictorial warning reduces appeal, prevents initiation, motivates users to quit, and increases noticeability of pack warnings. Plain packaging refers to measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style (plain packaging).

“Tobacco control isn’t easy. India is suffering from an epidemic of smokeless tobacco usage from products like gutka and pan masala. It is important to implement high tax on smokeless tobacco products and bidis to reduce usage,” he said.

While high prices, large pictorial pack warnings, and plain packaging will curb usage of tobacco to a great extent, Bekedam hinted at a next possible problem to plague India: hookah usage.

“Hookahs are being sold and used more often than we would like. Leading restaurants and bars mention hookah in the menu before food. This needs to be addressed since one hour of hookah is equivalent to consuming 100 cigarettes,” Bekedam said.

In view of the seriousness of the issue, HRIDAY, on behalf of the Government and WHO, among other initiatives is helping create awareness among youngsters by organising a two-phase nationwide inter-school design competition for students of Classes 6-12.

The first phase of the competition was planned as a lead-up to the event. The competition required students to draw packs with pictorial health warnings that they consider most appropriate and effective in warning about the ill-effects of tobacco use. 330 posters from 113 schools across 10 states of India were received in the first phase and the winners were felicitated by the Health Minister.

Health Related Facts of Tobacco Usage:

– Smokers die 13-14 years earlier than non-smokers
– Smokers have 20-25 times greater risk of developing lung cancer
– Smokers are at 2-3 times higher risk of having a heart attack.
– Tobacco-usage can lead to cancer of the lungs, mouth, lips, tongue, food pipe, throat, and bladder.
– Globally, 600,000 deaths every year are attributed to passive second-hand smoking.
– Almost half of the world’s children breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke.
– Approximately 200,000 hectares of forests/woodlands are removed by tobacco farming each year.


Anjani Monga

Passionate about social causes, Anjani is a journalist by profession and worked with Economic Times earlier.
She did her graduation in English Hons. from Delhi University and post graduation in journalism.

One thought on “World No Tobacco Day 2016: How equipped is India to be tobacco-free?

  • June 13, 2016 at 5:08 PM

    I truly wish that in future every day should be considered a NO TOBACCO DAY so that many lives are saved and we the citizens of the world may prosper.


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