Urgent measures needed for tobacco control: Experts

Aarti Dhar, CNS Correspondent, India
(First published in UC web portal)
Tobacco use kills more than 7 million people a year, and if urgent measures are not taken for tobacco control, this number will go up to 8 million each year by 2030, experts have warned. Tobacco-related illnesses are one of the biggest public health threats facing the world, even as tobacco use is one of the largest preventable causes of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Tobacco control can help in improving health in communities and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Target 3.4 of SDG is to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by one third by 2030, including cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, cancers, and diabetes. In addition to devastating ones health, tobacco is also linked to poverty, hunger, adverse environment impact, catastrophic economic impact, and stalling of human development.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the tobacco industry and the deadly impact of its tobacco products cost the world’s economies more than US$ 1 trillion annually in healthcare expenditures and lost productivity. "If business as usual continues, then tobacco deaths are projected to shoot up to 8 million every year by 2030 - which will fail us on SDGs. India's National Health Policy 2017 promises to reduce premature deaths due to NCDs by 25% by 2025 - a target we will miss if we fail to prevent tobacco diseases and avert tobacco related deaths. Effective tobacco control can save lives and the mountainous economic burden can instead be used for human development”, says Dr Rama Kant, WHO Director General’s Awardee and former President of Association of Surgeons of India.

WHO has called upon the governments to implement strong tobacco control measures, including ban on marketing and advertising of tobacco, promoting plain packaging of tobacco products, raising excise taxes, and making indoor public places and workplaces smoke free. 

“Urgent and unprecedented efforts are needed if we want to turn the tide of tobacco pandemic and make sustainable development a reality for every human with ‘no one left behind’. We have no choice but to ensure endgame of tobacco so that progress on each of the 17 SDGs can be accelerated without hindrance,’’ says Shobha Shukla, Advisor to Vote For Health, a citizen’s alliance for health and gender justice.

A latest WHO report on ‘Tobacco and its Environmental Impact: An Overview’ says that tobacco waste contains over 7000 toxic chemicals, including human carcinogens, that poison the environment; and tobacco smoke emissions contribute thousands of tons of human carcinogens, toxicants, and greenhouse gases to the environment.

Tobacco waste is the largest type of litter by count globally with up to 10 billion of the 15 billion cigarettes sold daily being disposed off in the environment. Cigarette butts account for 30–40% of all items collected in coastal and urban clean-ups.

Around 860 million adult smokers live in low- and middle-income countries with smokers spending 10% of their income on cigarettes and tobacco products. Tobacco farming stops children from attending school, as 10%–14% of children from tobacco-growing families work in tobacco fields. Importantly, 60%–70% of tobacco farm workers are women, putting them in close contact with often hazardous chemicals, the report says.

Aarti Dhar, Citizen News Service - CNS
June 18, 2017