India’s stand against tobacco usage
On May 31, the world observes No Tobacco Day (WNTD). This year, the focus is on tobacco and its effects on lung health.
“Well, you don't know what it is like. I can’t just quit,” said a colleague while having a conversation on quitting smoking. People start smoking really early on in their lives, this increases the risk of heart diseases amongst the youth. The mean age of daily smokers is just 18.
It's #WorldNoTobaccoDay.— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) May 31, 2019
Tobacco KILLS 8 million people each year. This includes 1 MILLION deaths from second-hand exposure.
Today and every day, don't let tobacco take your breath away!
Say #NoTobacco! https://t.co/m3BpZ9VpSy pic.twitter.com/89tnePSqPQ
In 2016, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) found that out of 14 lakh cancer patients, the highest number of cases were due to lung and oral cancer, often caused by tobacco and smoking.
Tobacco in India
Consumption of tobacco is of two forms, namely smoked—cigarettes, bidis, cigars, cheroots, rolled cigarettes, tobacco rolled in maize leaf and newspaper, hookah, pipes, chillum, and chutta—and smokeless—betel quid with tobacco, khaini, tobacco lime mixture, gutka, oral tobacco, pan masala, and snuff. It kills over one million people every year.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco accounts for almost 10 percent of deaths in India. Heart disease and stroke are the most common ways by which tobacco kills people. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) cause over 27 lakh deaths each year, accounting for 28 percent of all deaths. Of this number, CVD caused by tobacco accounts for at least 4.5 lakh deaths – 16 percent of all CVD deaths.
The latest offspring
A survey by Consumer Voice—a New Delhi-based NGO—has found that over the last three years, 36 brands have been illegally selling various forms of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) – including electronic vapes and e-cigarettes. These devices are not included in the legislation on tobacco production, distribution, or use.
Originally, these were introduced as alternatives to smoking to help people overcome their addiction to tobacco. But, most illegally manufactured devices can be customised with additives including nicotine, drugs, and flavours.
In August 2018, the health ministry advised states to ensure that nicotine devices are not manufactured, sold, distributed, traded, imported, and advertised. In March 2019, the FDA passed a blanket ban on ENDS. 12 states in India, most recently Maharashtra, have banned ENDS.
Any product with over 2mg of nicotine must have approval from the Drug Controller General of India. Smaller amounts of nicotine can only be used for therapeutic purposes, such as for nicotine patches and gum.
While the Indian government's goal to help its people reduce their addiction to tobacco is well written on paper, adopting and implementing tobacco control provisions is where the country falls behind.