NICPR and ICMR urge govt to ban manufacture, sale and import of smokeless tobacco

A government body along with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has compiled a report that recommends banning manufacture, selling and import of smokeless tobacco products as per a WHO framework

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The first-ever compilation of the global progress made in implementing smokeless tobacco control policies was prepared by the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR) in collaboration with the ICMR.

The compilation is in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the cancer research institute said in a statement.

The use of smokeless tobacco (SLT) products, which includes pan masala, gutkha and khaini, is a serious public health issue in India and the region.

Globally there are nearly 36 crore SLT users. 80% of these live in South-East Asia and 66% in India. According to the latest Global Adult Tobacco Survey India Report nearly 20 crore Indians use smokeless tobacco.  A 2010 study estimated that more than 36,8000 deaths were attributable to smokeless tobacco use in the country.

This report was released by Padma Shri Prof. Balram Bhargava, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research and Secretary, Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The key recommendations are banning of manufacture, selling and importing of such products; organising awareness programmes; and training to health professionals for providing behavioural interventions, specifically for smokeless tobacco cessation, taxing of such products and preventing their sale to and by minors, the statement said.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof. Bhargava highlighted the dual burden of the tobacco especially in India and other neighbouring countries in South-East Asia like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and others.

He emphasised that, “We need to be very innovative for controlling smokeless tobacco for example finding an out of box idea for SLT cessation, some new drugs that can be developed.”

He added, “Medical colleges need to start tobacco cessation clinic at a war footing. He also proposed legislative action for medical colleges not having tobacco cessation clinics.”

Prof. Ravi Mehrotra, Director, National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research extended his warm welcome and expressed grave concern over the rising number of countries, where SLT is becoming available, however, its regulation and control remains weak when compared to cigarettes.

He added, “In May, India’s first tobacco testing laboratory is set to open at NICPR. The laboratory will be the first-of-its-kind in the government sector that will be equipped to detect and quantify tobacco content in products sold in the market, said NICPR director Dr Ravi Mehrotra.”

He also assured that the KH-SLT is committed to provide all possible research and contribute to improving capacity needed in the Parties in the field of SLT not only in India but in the region and across the globe.

To address the burden of smokeless tobacco, the Government of India joined hands with the WHO-FCTC Secretariat and set up a global knowledge hub on Smokeless Tobacco (KH-SLT) at the ICMR-NICPR), Noida.

The WHO FCTC Secretariat initiated and supported the compilation and publication of this report.