It is essential that policies reflect on the full range of socio-cultural reasons that lead to tobacco addiction
It is essential that policies reflect on the full range of socio-cultural reasons that lead to tobacco addiction, and then develop appropriate responses.
Posted on 11.25.21, 02:17 AM
Playing with smoke can cause devastating fires. Smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, killing millions of people each year. But even here there is a hierarchy among nations: some countries are doing less well than others. According to a report by the International Commission to Revive Tobacco Control, India ranks second for the number of smokers aged 16 to 64. As if that weren’t disheartening enough, the report also found that although 37% of those polled expressed a desire to quit, the actual quit rate among men was less than 20%, one of the highest. down to the world. Almost 1.35 million people die from tobacco-related illnesses – oral and lung cancers, aortic aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease – in India each year. In a heavily polluted country – 1.67 million people died in 2019 from illnesses linked to air pollution – a socially entrenched and addictive habit like smoking has triggered a major public health crisis. Impaired health also imposes a considerable economic cost. A recent study by the World Health Organization concluded that the economic burden of tobacco use in India is one percent of GDP. In addition, the lack of universal and affordable health coverage leads to significant direct expenses, plunging families into poverty.
Over the years, there have been several attempts to crush the stick of cancer. In 2014, the Union Health Ministry required tobacco manufacturers to devote at least 85% of the surface area of cigarette packs on both sides to the graphic representation of a statutory warning. Four years later, the Supreme Court suspended an order from a lower court to reduce the size of those warnings. But these deterrents appear to have had minimal effect. It is worrying that other gaps have still not been addressed. For example, the current cigarette tax rate – 52 percent – is still well below the international best practice standard. India also has fewer smoking cessation centers than necessary. Research shows that the peak risk of nicotine addiction in adults coincides with the onset of regular use around age 10, with a high risk persisting up to age 20. There is therefore a clear need for a piecemeal approach to tackle addiction at an early age as well as other preventive measures for the general population. Politics must also be imaginative. Teens often start smoking in an attempt to emulate their friends or under pressure from peers. It is therefore essential that policies reflect on the full range of socio-cultural reasons that lead to tobacco addiction, and then develop appropriate responses.