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HomeEditorialSomeday, we will achieve ‘Biggest Smoking Nation’ title

Someday, we will achieve ‘Biggest Smoking Nation’ title

These days, cigarette smoking is a ‘big’ debate topic. Some BJP leaders not only endorsed smoking but also went on explaining how smoking is harmless. This raging controversy over remarks on smoking by BJP MP Shyama Charan Gupta, another BJP MP Ram Prasad Sharma waded into the row, claiming there is no clear proof of linking cigarette puffing and cancer while wondering whether tobacco contains “herbal medicine.” Meanwhile, to finish all arguments Narendra Modi has apparently asked Health Minister JP Nadda to go ahead with enforcing larger pictorial warnings on cigarette packets after a parliamentary committee said the move should be delayed because there is no local evidence that smoking causes cancer. Very refreshing that PM Modi’s stance on health warnings on cigarette packets is positive and respecting the majority of public’s wish. Indeed his open disagreement with Parliamentary committee on such an important public ‘health care’ issue is admirable. Government has to consider business interests but certain businesses which are causing more harm than good to be made redundant. I appreciate the stand by the PM on such crucial issues, where the youth and adults are not only burning their hard earning but also causing threat to passive smokers along with their own health.

Upto 900,000 Indians die every year from causes related to tobacco use, the government has said. India will record 1.5 million tobacco-related deaths annually by 2020, according to estimates by the International Tobacco Control Project. Even the developed countries like USA, UK and Germany has failed to do it. Indian Tobacco Co. (ITC) ventured into other business activities citing they will eventually stop selling tobacco, however it has been more than a decade now and they haven’t stopped. Because, profit margins in tobacco products are very high.

BJP MP and chairman of a parliamentary panel Dilip Gandhi had said there were “no India-specific studies” to link cancer to tobacco use. While party MP Shyama Charan Gupta had said that “sugar causes diabetes” and it should be banned by the same logic. A member of the committee is beedi baron and BJP lawmaker SC Gupta whose empire of hand-rolled cigarettes is worth hundreds of crores. Ramadoss said both these were ignorant and foolish utterances without any scientific basis and said the Centre should stop it “as the country should not be put to shame.” He noted that globally acclaimed institutions, including the Indian Council of Medical Research, had done hundreds of studies linking tobacco use to not just cancer but other diseases damaging kidney, lungs and brain as well.

Tobacco is a public health issue and when one million people die of tobacco related diseases every year, it is the responsibility of a responsive government to bring out this warning to save people using it. Tobacco lobby is one of the most powerful lobby, it ‘instigated’ employees to speak against such proposed rules, claiming that “it would hurt the employees in tobacco growing and beedi manufacturing firms.” The Centre had earlier stayed the decision to increase the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products following a Parliamentary panel’s assertion that it needs more time to deliberate on the issue.

I agree that larger health warnings on cigarette packets will not make any difference to the smokers or tobacco chewers. They are already seeing statutory warning on TV yet they continue to smoke. From childhood, we are told “prevention is better than cure”, by displaying banners at least some get the message. Health Ministry has put in abeyance the move to increase pictorial warning in tobacco products to 85 per cent effective from April 1. The tobacco industry’s market size was only Rs. 40,000 crore, while the expenditure to tackle tobacco caused diseases are Rs. 1,15,000 crore, So, who will benefit from this? No one!

It is ignorant views from BJP MPs. When the entire world is batting against tobacco in spite of the powerful tobacco lobby, these MPs are favouring them. Are they battling for some personal interest? First of all, even if tobacco doesn’t harm it definitely causes nuisance to others bringing cough, nauseating and even convulsions. If people want to die of cancer, let them die, it is their choice. However, they have no right to make other people die due to cancer. Compared to active smokers, more passive smokers die of cancer and other complications. I want these leaders to run a campaign to promote smoking so that passive smoker’s population will go down. Our Governments should generate more revenue by imposing more taxes on tobacco products. After all, we are interested in making more money. In addition to largest democracy title, we can easily achieve the status of biggest smoking nation’.

Dr. Vaidehi Taman
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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