"Ban all forms of tobacco - smokeless and smoking both": Experts

Tobacco control experts of the country have expressed their concern on the notified pictorial warnings for smoke tobacco. The experts feel that they are in no way an improvement on the existing ones. The Ministry of Health on occasions more than one has admitted that the existing warnings are ineffective. The newly notified ones will meet the same fate. We need stronger warnings for both smoke and smokeless tobacco. It is because all tobacco products are harmful.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) India report has revealed how deep the roots of smokeless tobacco use are in the country. Its use has totally gone out of hand. The young, the old, the simple, the sophisticated, the modern and the old fashioned are all under its influence. The proposed ban bodes well for us. Nothing short of an outright prohibition of these products will be acceptable as the voices coming from every corner of the country are loud and clear.

Smoking is set to kill 6.5 million people in 2015 and 8.3 million in 2030, with the biggest rise in low- and middle-income countries.  The World Health Organization (WHO) tells us that every 6.5 seconds, a current or former smoker dies. Also according to the WHO, an estimated 1.3 billion people are smokers worldwide.

The risk from tobacco smoking is even bigger than previously thought. Smoking causes 10% of 10 million deaths per year from all causes in India. It may soon account for 20% of all male deaths and 5 % of all female deaths between the ages of 30 and 69.Men who smoke bidis shorten their lives by six years and those who smoke cigarettes lose about ten years of life. It is not just death but the diseases, the disability and the dilapidation that smoking causes that is truly worrisome and worrying.

We have long known that secondhand smoke also kills. It does a great deal of harm. In fact the smoke that emanates from the end of a cigarette, cigar or bidi actually contains more harmful substances than the smoke inhaled by the smoker. This means that people who don’t smoke but are regularly around those who smoke are exposed to serious health risks. .

The scientific evidence for the health risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke is clear, convincing, and overwhelming. Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke causes disease, disability, and death. It is a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease, low birth-weight babies, and chronic lung ailments such as bronchitis and asthma (particularly in children). About five in ten adults (52.3%) are exposed to second-hand smoke at home and 29.0% in public places (mainly in public transport and restaurants).The health risks of secondhand smoke have been a major motivation for smoking bans in workplaces and indoor public places, including restaurants, bars and night clubs, as well as some open public spaces.  Overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

So let us strengthen our resolve and make it clear that we need a ban on all tobacco smokeless and smoking!!.

Dr Mira Aghi
(The author is a senior adviser to Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control (AFTC) - a pan India civil society coalition on tobacco control - and a noted Behavioural Scientist and Communication Expert. Dr Aghi's work has focused on intervention research and advocacy in India and internationally, including South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern and Southern Africa. She was the first woman from Asia to be awarded the WHO Gold Medal on Tobacco Control in 1989 and is a tireless advocate for tobacco control across various sectors including Parliamentarians)

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