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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
HomeEditorialTobacco is an addiction; ban will not serve the purpose

Tobacco is an addiction; ban will not serve the purpose

The Indian tobacco industry is one of the largest commercial sectors and an important source of direct and indirect employment in many regions of the country

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Tobacco is a dangerous addictive item which can cause mouth cancer and give rise to other health issues. But it is still not banned because the addicts cannot give up the habit in a day. Therefore the smuggling of tobacco will start on a large scale which would create a messy situation. But still the government is trying to reduce its consumption by creating awareness and opening Drug de-addiction centers. A government can try to ban anything, but in case of tobacco there are various reasons not to. There are people who insist on their right to smoke. They might tolerate state-imposed health-advice, but being entirely prohibited from smoking might cause them to no longer vote for the politicians who supported the ban. There are economic interests too in all this. Controlling companies from selling them would mean that those people who work in cigarette production, distribution and sales would lose their jobs. Many countries impose an additional tax on tobacco products which generates quite a lot of tax income. Banning smoking would cause this income to disappear. This would mandate cuts on government spending or a higher deficit.

India, home to the world’s second highest number of tobacco users (around 275 million), last year had set a target of reducing tobacco use by 20 per cent by 2020 and 30 per cent by 2025. Going by the decline in the output of tobacco products, the target under an action plan drawn up by the ministry of health and family welfare may not be out of reach. Stiff increases in tobacco and cigarette taxes and stringent packaging norms have contributed to the decline. According to the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) data, output of tobacco which includes cigarettes, bidis and chewable tobacco products declined by 12.1 per cent in March 2015. The NDA’s anti-tobacco campaigns and its efforts to stop the sale of loose cigarettes (that accounts for about 70 per cent of total sales) and hike in penalties for smoking at public places has also worked in its favour. But industry body the Tobacco Institute of India (TII) does not subscribe to the view that consumption of tobacco products may have actually declined.

Punjab has banned them, but the reason behind a huge sale of gutkha in India is that the people who are addicted to it want to have it at any price. So, obviously Indians shop works on what most of their customers’ demands. Banning tobacco in India would be one of the worst things the government can do because India is the second largest tobacco producer in the world. Around 10 per cent of the total excise revenue comes from tobacco out of which around 80 per cent is contributed by cigarettes. Tobacco is a cash crop and thus provides high returns to farmers. The tobacco industry provides livelihood to around 45 million people in the country. But still if the government bans tobacco in India, they might have to face lot of consequences. Like tobacco may start trading in the black market same as Marijuana or Cannabis or Weed. Tobacco is a highly taxable commodity through which the government earns a lot of revenue. If tobacco starts trading in the black market, people will be still consuming tobacco, but government would not be getting any tax revenue. 45 million is a very high number of people that are employed in the industry. In a country like India, ripping these number of people will only go to increase the poverty level.

Thus banning tobacco will not help people in getting over their addiction but would rip off government from getting any revenues. Instead of banning, the  government can issue a regulatory warning label area on the cigarette packet must be increased (various studies have shown it has a positive effect on people). Taxes on tobacco should be increased further; E-cigarettes should be promoted. Farmers should be promoted to shift their cropping pattern and shift to other crops. Awareness programs should be promoted in the schools and colleges. Smoking in public places should be STRICTLY BANNED. In short, the problem tobacco causes or number of families it rips apart can only be answered by people themselves by understanding that it is injurious to their health whether in chewing or smoking form.

Banning something is not a solution to eradicate the addiction people have to it. First of all, let’s understand that people don’t consume or get addicted to these things based on whether it’s legal or not. If you want to consume it, you’ll always find someone happy to sell it. There is a case relating to the scenario, it happened in the United States, in 1880, an act was passed known as anti-abortion and legalisation act, this act prevents the doctors and nurses from doing abortion. Doctors and nurses were put behind bars if they were caught doing abortion. In the early 1900’s, the crime rate increased badly and the reason was unknown. In 1970, a Rockwell commission was set up and it found out the reason. The reason is the women who were not able to abort or raise the children, gave birth to the child and threw their children off the streets. This made the children to grow without a proper guidance; thereby those children were involved in robbery, rape, crime etc.

You can ask how it is related to tobacco. If you stop a sudden activity which many people are practising, it is difficult to face the aftermath. India has 11·2 per cent of the world’s total smokers. If you ban tobacco it will affect us by many reasons. Banning gutka/pan masala leads to higher addiction to the same. This may sound counter intuitive, but it’s true. Banning Guthka/pan masala would mean that illegal sellers can sell these at a higher margin of profits, further increasing the supply of the same. Let’s take the example of Marijuana criminalisation in the USA. In the 1950s, usage of Marijuana became illegal and we can see a clear spike in the consumption. It was made legal way back in the ‘70s and the growth rate of consumption became zero. It is not practically possible to ban tobacco in India; figuratively there are approximately 200 million smokers in India which sum up to almost 12 per cent of the world’s smoking population. Just think what will happen to 200 million tobacco addicts if tobacco is banned all of a sudden.

The Indian tobacco industry is one of the largest commercial sectors and an important source of direct and indirect employment in many regions of the country. With a total production value of US$ 1.6 trillion in 2012, the tobacco industry’s contribution to the nation’s GDP amounted to 1.1 per cent representing about 7 per cent of the total for the manufacturing sector. Tobacco, being a labour intensive crop, provides employment to more than 60 lakh people who are engaged in the farming, curing, grading, primary marketing, processing, packaging, manufacturing, distribution, and retailing activities besides exporting.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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