Should tobacco be banned in India?
Recently debates flared all over the country when BJP MP Dilip Kumar Gandhi tried to defend that tobacco and cancer and not related. He said, “there is no Indian survey report to prove that tobacco consumption leads to cancer. All the studies are done abroad. Cancer does not happen only because of tobacco. We have to study the Indian context, as four crore people in states like Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh are dependent on bidi-making through Tendupatta.” Soon two more BJP MPs, Shyama Charan Gupta and Ram Prasad Sharma came to his support. This directly affected the implementation of pictorial warning that was to cover 85% of the packaging of cigarettes and other tobacco products. The decision was postponed, debated and finally PM gave his words for implementing this law. Should India completely ban tobacco instead of just pictorial warning?
1. Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Professor, Head and Neck Surgeon Tata Memorial Hospital, said, “Tobacco industry all over the world has admitted that their product is harmful, therefore, they agreed to adopt pack warning as part of their manufacturer liability. In fact, tobacco is the only consumer product that has no good use whatsoever apart of killing every third consumer. Tobacco is attributable cause of 50% cancers in India and majority of lung or heart diseases.” If this is not a reason enough to ban something then what is?
2. Nicotine is addictive and a developing country should focus on how to rehabilitate those who are already addicted to nicotine and not leave it unattended owing to financial benefits. Health is wealth is not a forgone saying after all. Those that smoke tobacco are not just putting themselves into risks of cancer but also endangering lives of those near them, especially children.
3. Just to prevent their own interests, ministers are bringing up such worthless debates. They claim that not every tobacco consumer has cancer which is like saying that not every accident leads to death. Genetically some people are stronger than the other but that doesn’t mean that tobacco is not harmful to them in one way or the other. These ministers should have thought for once about the message they are giving to youth of the nation. They should be charges of encouraging harmful substances.
4. Opposed to what these ministers claim, there are studies by Indian researchers that prove that tobacco contains 4,000 toxic chemical substances of which 28 are confirmed carcinogens. Hence tobacco is scientifically termed as a carcinogen, the only product which damages the P53 gene which triggers cancer. The most lethal carcinogens in tobacco are nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, volatile phenols. Nicotine is used in high doses as insecticide. Only 60 mg of nicotine is enough to kill most people and about 1.2 mg is inhaled when a cigarette is smoked.
5. Death ratio due to nicotine shows a deathly order. Around 8 to 9 lakh Indians die every year painfully succumbing to tobacco related diseases. Seventy per cent of people who die of tobacco use are between 30 to 69 years. Thirty years back World Health Organized confirmed that tobacco is a poison and we are still debating whether of not it is actually harmful.
6. We easily ban movies that offend us and beef consumption when they are of least danger. Did the ministers think of the leather industry that would be suffering and employment lost of thousands when they banned cow slaughtering? Why is banning a proved slow, lethal, painful poison so difficult in a country where laws are passed based on interests of people?
1. Tobacco has become the main commercial crop of the country. People in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh depend largely on tobacco cultivation for their livelihood. Banning would leave them shattered. It employs people in rural areas in the process of curing, packing, processing and transportation. They would all lose their jobs with sudden ban. The export of tobacco and its by-products earns the country more than `10,000 crore in foreign exchange. A sudden ban would stagnate the country’s economy.
2. Warnings against tobacco at the start of movies and a disclaimer everytime a character puffs smoke hasn’t ever helped. In fact, people were allured to smoking. Similarly, forced ban would lead to consumption of smuggled tobacco and would also create unrest amongst those who are addicted to nicotine. The process of banning tobacco has to be slow and gradual.
3. If a ban on tobacco is to be implemented, there would be question raised on alcohol and other addictive products like ganja and other drugs. Alcohol also kills, so does sugar and fat consumption but we don’t ban them or stop using them. Educated and well established people are addictives of tobacco and alcohol which makes it clear that they are aware of the health risks yet ignore it for personal pleasure. It is not on the government to prevent people from their lifestyles, healthy or unhealthy.
4. Large pictorial warning is a good way to discourage smoking and use of other tobacco products. Government must make it a strict measure to stop smoking in public places to prevent harming to other due to passive smoking. Health minister’s proposal to make the dangers of tobacco-use a part of essential reading for school students is also a good measure to make youth understand why they must refrain from tobacco.
One of the utmost responsibility of the government is to protect the citizens from being killed. Tobacco kills and it is very obvious though the mentality of the ministers opposing this clearly shows how an addict still goes on with the consumption of nicotine even when he knows the effects, they simply refuse to believe, refusing to believe what is true. However, the tobacco industry and people it employs can also not be ignored completely for it would make life harder for farmers and increase their suicide cases. Gradual and slow ban can be possible if government helps the farmers with alternative agricultural projects.