Everyone is aware that “Smoking” has been criticized as the most lethal weapon of self-murder. According to the Tobacco Products Act, 2004, direct and indirect advertising of all tobacco products and its sale to minors is banned. Addiction to nicotine makes it hard to quit. The increasing incidence of heart attack in India, fast spreading among younger generation has been largely on account of smoking habits. The problem of smoking in India is widespread but no studies have been done to estimate what percentage of the population are smokers.
Roadside paan shops bountifully stocked with cigarettes feed smokers continuing to exhale smoke from cigarettes. It is a fact that smoking is a hard habit to break because tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. Smoking harms not just the smoker, but also family members, coworkers, and others who breathe the smoker’s cigarette smoke, called passive smoking. In fact, statistics tell us that approximately 70 out of 100 people who smoke want to stop but go on puffing, day in and day out, seemingly powerless to quit. Research has shown that non-smokers who reside with a smoker have a 24 per cent increase in risk for developing lung cancer when compared with other non-smokers.
Owners of sales outlets must display boards with the warnings like “tobacco causes cancer”, “tobacco kills” and “sale to minors is a punishable offence”. Sometimes it happens that notification prohibiting selling tobacco products to minors has no effect as the teenagers continue to buy tobacco/cigarettes on the pretext that they are buying it on behalf of their elders. Let us remember that staying smoke free helps more of everything — more energy, better performance, better looks, more money in your pocket, and, in the long run, more life to live.
In India there is little campaigning besides the statutory warnings printed in small font on cigarette cartons and advertisements to create awareness among people about ill-effects of smoking. Graphic health warnings using a mixture of pictures and words are part and parcel of every country’s policy on cigarette marketing. The 40 per cent warning on one side proved ineffective as vendors displayed the packaging on the other side, so that consumers would not see the warnings. Cigarette manufacturers share the kitty with vested interests, hence their interest is well protected with simple modifications to fool the general public. It is agreed that the bigger warning can create an impact when a smoker buys a cigarette pack. But how do we resolve the issue when smokers buy one or two cigarettes and the packet is being opened by the shop owner who sells cigarettes for improving his business. It is the youth who are the most vulnerable group as far as the consumption of tobacco is concerned. Most of them begin smoking as a fad and even as a rite of passage.
(This is a first part of the article and the remaining portion will continue tomorrow)
Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)