On 2nd June, 2017 Shri JP Nadda, Union Minister of Health released a report that showed 17% relative decrease in tobacco consumption in India, between the year 2010 to 2016. The maximum decrease (54%) in consumption happened in the age group of 17 years. In absolute numbers, the Government’s campaign saved 81 lakhs less Indians picking up the lethal habit. Also, the report showed that the new set of gory pictorial warnings has significantly contributed to this decline.
While celebrations are still not over, in a shocking move, an intelligence bureau report of Home Ministry labelled the laudable achievements of Government of India as the result of an “international conspiracy” to cause economic instability in India.
The IB report (as quoted in media) says – restrictions on tobacco use in India would encourage consumption of more injurious toxicants like alcohol and narcotics. It goes on to say – this includes adverse economic impact on 3.5 crore persons of the forced closure of tobacco-related farming/industry”
For his leadership and commitment to advancing tobacco control World Health Organization conferred Director General’s Award to India’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Mr J P Nadda, in India. Accepting the award, he said that it is recognition of the collective endeavour of the Ministry, members of NGO, social activists, civil society organizations. The Home Ministry’s IB report, belittled this accomplishment as a ramification of foreign agenda.
Dr Sharma’s letter questions the use the word “Anti-Tobacco Lobbying” in a negative sense when it actually saves lives. Needless to say that this “lobbying” is in complete synchrony with the Governments own agenda. While tobacco industry lobbies to enhance their business, public heath activists are lobbying to save disease, death and deprivation.
Towards this, the IB report conveniently ignores certain facts. International Cigarette Industries have also hugely invested in India’s cigarette companies. Indian tobacco industry has consistently challenged India’s tobacco control policy in several courts by engaging some of the most expensive lawyers/advocates. It is well known that, tobacco lobby works systematically to dilute or delay tobacco control policies to enhance their business.
The letter also questions the logic of supporting livelihood of 3.5 crore people by killing 12 lakh innocent Indians every year. The letter mentions that net revenue from tobacco is only 17% of the loss from Tobacco.
Dr Sharma reminds of the strong anti-tobacco sentiments messages of Honorable Prime Minister that is in Public domain. It also mentions anti-tobacco pledges signed by honorable Home Minister himself and Shri Kiren Rijuju, MOS, Home Affairs. As the Tata Memorial Hospital has always been in the forefront of Tobacco Control movement of India to augment the efforts of Government of India in controlling this public health disaster.
As per the message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 31st, 2015, “World No Tobacco Day reminds us of the harms associated with tobacco consumption and a day to reaffirm our commitment to reduce this menace. His message to nation on May 31st 2014 was equally encouraging – “On World No Tobacco Day, lets pledge to spread awareness on the risks of tobacco consumption and work to reduce tobacco consumption in India. Tobacco not only affects those consuming it but also people around. By saying no to tobacco, let us lay the foundation of a healthier India.”