The latest World Health Organization (WHO) report on the global tobacco epidemic has seen a positive change in bringing down tobacco consumption among people. The report has found that more countries have implemented tobacco control policies, ranging from graphic pack warnings and advertising bans to creating no smoking areas.
It states that nearly two-thirds of countries i.e. 121 of 194 countries have now introduced the measures stated in MPOWER (except Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies) to control tobacco usage. It means that 63% of world population is now under tobacco control program. In order to manage tobacco control WHO had introduced MPOWER measures.
The report has mentioned that low and middle-income countries such as India continued to make significant progress in order to control tobacco. Even Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS – 2) India 2016-17 which had been released by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had found a six per cent decline in tobacco use prevalence than the previous year. It also stated that the decline in prevalence was equivalent to a 17% relative decrease, and the number of tobacco users has reduced by about 8.1 million.
According to Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi Professor and Head and Neck Cancer Surgeon in Tata Memorial Hospital the tobacco control measures can be successful only if citizens and government shows will to make it happen.
“The tobacco control could come into effect because of several factors. The government amended the Juvenile Justice Act to make the sale of tobacco to minors as a non – bailable offence, The Department of Consumer Affairs amended the Legal Metrology Act to prohibit sale of loose cigarettes, Supreme Court ordered a nationwide ban on Gutka and more than a dozen states have independently prohibited flavoured smokeless tobacco products,” he said
“Most importantly, Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV), a campaign led by doctors and tobacco victims, played a pivotal role in reducing the prevalence of tobacco. We have surely made progress but this is not enough,” he added.
MPOWER includes measures such as monitor tobacco use prevention policies, protect people from tobacco smoke, offer help to quit tobacco use and warn about the dangers of tobacco etc.
According to Dr Prakash C. Gupta Director, Healis – Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health all the measures stated in MPOWER are feasible to implement but it requires strong political will.
“Currently we have basic mechanism in place but they will need to be strengthened. For example, we don’t get full marks as the law permits designated smoking areas in restaurants, airports etc. We issue pictorial warnings but there is still the problem of surrogate or indirect advertising. So as we go along, these measures will need to be strengthened. Maybe some new ones will need to be created,” Dr Gupta said.
According to Dr Lancelot Pinto, Consultant Respirologist, P D Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, the government policies have made an impact so far but now are the need of the hour is to focus on some specific areas to reduce tobacco consumption.
“There is an increase in number of adolescents consuming tobacco in various forms. Our policies should focus on stopping people from getting addicted to tobacco,” he said.