Let’s be united to make a sustainable, tobacco-free world

Shubham sharma
[ June 02, 2017 ] Every year, on 31 May, WHO and partners mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health and additional risks associated with tobacco use, and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. WHO is calling on countries to prioritize and accelerate tobacco control efforts as part of their responses to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.All countries benefit from successfully controlling the tobacco epidemic, above all by protecting their citizens from the harms of tobacco use and reducing its economic toll on national economies. The aim of the Sustainable Development Agenda, and its 17 global goals, is to ensure that "no one is left behind." In addition to saving lives and reducing health inequalities, comprehensive tobacco control contains the adverse environmental impact of tobacco growing, manufacturing, trade and consumption.Tobacco control can break the cycle of poverty, contribute to ending hunger, promote sustainable agriculture and economic growth, and combat climate change. Increasing taxes on tobacco products can also be used to finance universal health coverage and other development programs of the government. It is not only governments who can step up tobacco control efforts, people can contribute on an individual level to making a sustainable, tobacco-free world. People can commit to never take up tobacco products. Those who do use tobacco can quit the habit, or seek help in doing so, which will in turn protect their health as well as people exposed to second-hand smoke, including children, other family members and friends. Money not spent on tobacco can be, in turn, used for other essential uses, including the purchase of healthy food, healthcare and education.The theme for World No Tobacco Day, 31 May 2017, is "Tobacco – a threat to development." It will propose measures that governments and the public should take to promote health and development by confronting the global tobacco crisis.On World No Tobacco Day, WHO is highlighting how tobacco threatens the development of nations worldwide, and is calling on governments to implement strong tobacco control measures. These include banning marketing and advertising of tobacco, promoting plain packaging of tobacco products, raising excise taxes, and making indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free.Cigarettes have been the never ending super villains in healthcare, and for good reason. The use of tobacco only seems to culminate in bad results. Its critics are many and harsh, and even its ardent supporters cannot deny the adverse effects.It also costs households and governments over $1.4 trillion in healthcare expenses and lost productivity. To put it approximately in Indian currency, that’s a staggering 90,349,000,000,000 — ninety trillion, three hundred forty-nine billion rupees — going up in smoke.Displaying statutory health warnings on cigarette packets have been mandatory for brands in India since 1975 when the Cigarettes (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act was introduced. Cigarette manufacturers are prohibited from advertising their products and tobacco products are not to be sold to anyone aged below 18. In addition to health warnings, cigarette packs also carry graphic images of diseases caused by tobacco to drive home the message visually.Kerala became the first Indian state to ban smoking in public places, back in 1999. As the movement spread across the country, Chandigarh earned the distinction of being India’s first ‘smoke-free’ city in 2009. However, it wasn’t till 2008 that a nationwide ban was implemented on smoking in public places, except designated smoking zones.The efficiency of some of these regulations, however, remains open to debate. For instance, no tobacco shop can be set up within a 100-mt radius of the boundary of any educational institute. It takes barely minutes to cover the distance, making the law a minor and often ineffective deterrent to young adults and college students — particularly so, when cigarette sellers are literally perched on the edge of the designated boundaries, waiting to cater to customers.It is also not unusual to see children aged below 18 not only buying tobacco products, but also selling it. While, many restaurants and public places have stringently applied the rules, creating smoking zones and designated spaces for smokers, other spaces remain open to debate. For instance, smoking and chewing tobacco in cabs and autos remains unquestioned, and drivers and cab aggregators determine their own rules.Along with the rest of the world, Jammu and Kashmir too observed Anti-Tobacco Day. The unhygienic practice of spitting after consuming tobacco and rubbing of extra lime across the city has turned the once beautiful green city to ‘red and white’ city. All corners and flower pots, especially in Government offices, have been turned into spittoons. The bottom of any table, chair and wall is the common rubbing space for lime.The second nuisance is smoking. Smoking in public places has been banned in India since May 2008. Is the Law implemented in Jammu and Kashmir?Vendors and shops selling cigarettes and other forms of tobacco within the proximity of educational institutions openly without any hindrances from any quarter speaks on the sincerity of the authorities concerned in implementing the Bill of October 2, 2008, that banned smoking in public places all over India.Where is the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act-2003 (COTPA), which prohibits sale of tobacco products within a radius of 100 yards of any educational institution?Now, the time has come to take necessary and appropriate steps regarding this. Government has to stress more and more on anti-tobacco campaigns, which helps younger generation to quit tobacco products.As Mark Twain famously said, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”