Strengthen the Tobacco Laws to reduce the Tobacco Consumption and Prevalence of Cancer Cases
Nearly 50 % of all cancers in India are due to tobacco Parliamentary Committee on Health
Guwahati, Rongili Barta – Consumer VOICE, New Delhi along with Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam urge the Government to strengthen the Tobacco Laws to reduce the consumption of Tobacco and prevalence of cancer cases considering recommendation of 139 th report of Parliamentary Standing Committee of Health and Family Welfare. Indian Council of Medical Research report states that the number of Indian suffering from cancer is likely to experience a rise of about 29.8 million in 2025 from 26.7 million in 2022.
Tobacco is the leading cause of Cancer cases. The use of tobacco is a prominent risk factor for 6 to 8 leading causes of death and that almost 40% of the Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) including cancers, cardio-vascular diseases and lung disorders are directly attributable to tobacco use. In the Report on “Cancer Care Plan & Management: Prevention, Diagnosis, Research & Affordability of Cancer Treatment”, 139th Report of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, presented to Rajyasabha/Loksabha on 12 th September 2022, the Committee observed that in India, tobacco use in different forms, accounts for nearly 50 % of all cancers. These are called tobacco related cancers, so these cancers are preventable. The Committee expresses its concern that while thousands of crores are spent by both Central and State Governments on treatment of Cancer, however, the desired focus is not given to its root cause i.e., tobacco consumption. As the Committee has been given to understand that majority of tobacco addicts start in their teen, it recommends the Government to focus on measures to check tobacco consumption by youth as the”quit-rate” in India is very low. There is an urgent need to disincentivize the consumption of tobacco in the country. The Committee accordingly recommends the Government to formulate effective policies on tobacco control. The committee recommends that Government should formulate strategies to stop the teen-population from falling prey to the tobacco addiction In the report, the Committee noted, COTPA is the principal anti – tobacco law in India that encompasses a ban on smoking in public places, advertising and sponsorship, sales to minors, and warnings on packs. The Committee further noted that India’s National Health Policy 2017 has set out to achieve a relative reduction in the prevalence of current tobacco use by 30% in 2025. The Committee believes to achieve the SDG target, the Ministry must take effective measures to contain the sale of tobacco products. The Committee recommends the Government to abolish designated smoking areas in airports, hotels, and restaurants and encourage a smoke free policy in organizations. The Committee further recommends the Government to prohibit single stick sales of cigarettes and lay stringent penalties and fines on offenders.Appreciating the Committee’s recommendation, Dr.Shekhar Salkar,Oncologist Manipal Hospital Goa ,& President National Organization Tobacco Eradication (NOTE) “Tobacco use and its associated diseases take away an individual right to live with dignity and in a healthy manner. The provision of India’s national law, i.e., the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003(COTPA), needs to be strengthened to have the desired deterrent effect. It is scientifically established that if a person is kept away from tobacco till the age of 21 years and above, there is a very high probability that he/she will remain tobacco free for the rest of his life. Several countries have now increased the minimum age of sale of tobacco products 21 years. Increasing the minimum legal age for sale of tobacco products from 18 years to 21 years and banning smoking area/point of sale advertisements by amending COTPA 2003, is crucial to protect youth from tobacco as it has the potential to reduce tobacco use initiation and progression to regular smoking” As per Advocate Ajoy Hazarika, Secretary, Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam “Tobacco is the leading cause of cancer cases which are preventable .Government should consider the recommendations of the parliamentary committee and strengthen the tobacco laws. I applaud the Government of India for starting the process of tobacco control law COTPA 2003 overhauling, as this is an important step towards improving public health. There is an urgent need to strengthen the provisions for making India smoke free and protect millions of Indians from tobacco related diseases and deaths” India has the second largest number 27 crore of tobacco users in the world (according to Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2017) and of these more than 13 lakhs die every year from tobacco related diseases. The total direct and indirect cost of diseases attributable to tobacco use was a staggering Rupees 182,000 crore which is nearly 1.8% of India’s GDP. According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, nearly one- fifth of students aged 13-15 years are using tobacco products in India. This nationwide survey released by Union Health Minister, revealed that 38 percent of cigarettes, 47 percent of bidi and 52 percent of smokeless tobacco users picked up the habit before their 10th birthday.