We Shall Overcome the menace of tobacco

We Shall Overcome the menace of tobacco

The recently concluded 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH), renewed the pledge to battle the scourge of tobacco, till we can boast of a smoke free environment and a healthy society. The conference provided a global platform for sharing of ideas and real life experiences and dissemination of information from across 130 countries of the world for improved tobacco control measures. It was attended by a galaxy of luminaries consisting of proactive government agencies, health experts, scientists, educators and anti tobacco advocates working towards a ‘tobacco free society’.

In the words of 2009 Luther Terry Awardee Dr Srinath Reddy, tobacco was brought to India, 400 years ago by the Portuguese, through its west coast, and this conference, hosted in Mumbai, has sounded the clarion call for its exit through the same point.

Tobacco control is a development issue, and not merely a health issue. The tobacco menace is inextricably linked with other ills plaguing the world society today. In times of a global food crisis, (when the UN Secretary General has called for doubling the food production), can we allow to waste 5.3 million hectares of land for cultivation of a poison called tobacco? In times of severe environmental degradation, does it make any sense to fill the already polluted air with carcinogenic cigarette smoke? In times of an economic meltdown (and even otherwise), can governments afford to increase their economic burden on their national health care systems due to tobacco related diseases and deaths? Hence the anti tobacco movement has to work hand in hand with other global movements for the betterment of civil society.

Smokers may insensitively plead for protecting their right to have a particular life style. But they cannot have the freedom to endanger the health and life of innocents through second hand smoke and they do not have the right to force their families to economic deprivation.

The conference taught us lessons in working towards a tobacco free future by making sincere efforts to -- put a curb on illicit tobacco trade; raise taxes on tobacco products; strictly enforce pictorial warnings; ban all tobacco/cigarette advertising; decline sponsorships from tobacco companies for any youth/ sports/ social responsibility activities; and to create public-private partnerships for effective anti tobacco campaigns.

Each one of us needs to step in, to stub it out, before it is too late. The fearless fighters of tobacco can do it, and will do it, to mark the triumph of the human spirit against all odds.

Shobha Shukla
, Citizen News Service (CNS)

(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also teaches physics at Loreto Convent. Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)