‘Stop tobacco lobby’s influence on anti-tobacco policies,’ says WHO

The ‘WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2017- monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies’ states that a lot of countries across the globe are have been trying hard to win the fight against tobacco, yet the tobacco lobby is subverting these efforts. Firewalls between government and the tobacco industry must be in place to block industry attempts to influence the tobacco control decision-making process

Stop tobacco lobby’s influence on anti-tobacco policies,’ says WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a report regarding the consumption of tobacco across the globe. The report studied the positive outcomes of engaging various methods to curb tobacco use and this in turn curbs tuberculosis (TB). The WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2017- monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies’ states that a lot of countries across the globe are have been trying hard to win the fight against tobacco, yet the tobacco lobby is subverting these efforts.

Comprehensive tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) bans interfere with the industry’s ability to promote and sell its products, and reduce tobacco consumption in all countries regardless of their income level, said the report.

TB is a disastrous disease which breeds in our society because of the favourable conditions in the country which let bacteria thrive, “If you look closely, there are more TB deaths in our country than any other disease. This is so because we have favourable conditions environmentally and socially, for the disease to breed,” said Dr Amit Kumar Nohwar, co-founder of ‘Doctors for You’ (DFY), Mumbai Project. He further explains that crowding, lack of exposure to sun rays or unawareness regarding cough etiquettes are contributing factors.

One of the points that came to the fore in the WHO report is the stronghold by the tobacco lobby. “Government is bound by the constitution to protect the well-being of citizens. The tobacco business is all about selling disease and death. Therefore, it is imperative that government should completely dissociate from any aspect of tobacco business because it kills one million innocent Indians every year,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi Professor, Head and Neck Cancer surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital.

However, the worrisome fact is the powerful tobacco lobby in our country. “Tobacco lobbies wield massive power because many MPs and MLAs own tobacco businesses. Similarly, most political parties receive donations from the tobacco lobby. In fact, the largest shareholder in ITC (India’s leading cigarette manufacturer) happens to be a government agency,” said Dr Chaturvedi.

Increasing the taxes on cigarettes or tobacco products could bring down its consumption, believe doctors. “Increasing the taxes will automatically bring down its consumption but that isn’t happening because of the stronghold. Money is the reason for the existing lobby,” added Dr Nohwar.