Reduce Tobacco Consumption, Save Lives
Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service (CNS)
With nearly 35% of India's adult population (age 15+) consuming some form of tobacco, there are around 275 million people in the country smoking and/or chewing this poison, and an estimated 1 million dying every year from tobacco-related diseases. Moreover 27% of the youth (age group 13-15 years) are exposed to second-hand smoke at home and 40% are exposed to second-hand smoke in public places. Bidis or cheap hand-rolled cigarettes (which outsell cigarettes by a ratio of 8:1) are the most popular tobacco product used in India, comprising 48% of the tobacco market. Chewing tobacco comes next at 38% followed by cigarettes at 14%.
For World No Tobacco Day 2014, World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners call on countries to raise taxes on tobacco. Increasing taxes on tobacco is considered to be the most cost-effective tobacco-control measure. An increase of 10% in tobacco prices is said to decrease tobacco consumption by about 4% in high-income countries and by up to 8% in most low- and middle-income countries. The World Health Report 2010 indicated that a 50% increase in tobacco-excise taxes would generate a little more than US$ 1.4 billion in additional funds in 22 low-income countries.
Favouring an increase in tobacco taxes, Dr Ehsan Latif, Director-Tobacco Control, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), says that, "Increasing taxes on tobacco products is the most effective policy measure a government can take to reduce tobacco-related mortality across a population. It is also seen as an attractive measure for governments, as it increases their revenues. Some countries, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, are using this extra income to fund government tobacco-control programmes and to invest in other preventive-health measures. Other low- and middle-income countries need to follow suit to create resources for tobacco control now, and also to create a tobacco-control fund which is sustainable into the future."