Experts have called for making India free from tobacco during the National Youth Week, being celebrated during 12-18 January to mark Swami Vivekananda Jayanti.
A significant raise in taxes and implementing the proposed amendments for a stricter anti-tobacco law, COTPA, are the way forward to curbing tobacco consumption.
Delivering the keynote address during the webinar ‘Freedom From Tobacco: What India Wants’ on the occasion of National Youth Day, Mr Priyank Kanoongo, Chairman of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) advocated increase in taxes on a wide range of tobacco products.
Kanoongo said that affordability and easy availability of such lethal tobacco products is harmful, especially for the youth. An increase in taxes will not only make these products out of bounds, but the additional revenues earned can be used for the treatment and rehabilitation of those suffering from tobacco-related diseases.
In addition to requesting increased taxes on a wide range of tobacco products, NCPCR also suggested an increase in taxes on films, OTT, and other media that show use of tobacco in any form. “Imposition of greater taxation on media that displays use of tobacco will require people to pay more and help discourage glorification of tobacco products. NCPCR has also requested the government to use the earnings from increased taxes entirely on rehabilitation and preventive activities,” he informed.
“There is a psychological warfare by the tobacco companies. They are targeting young children by positioning tobacco-related ads at their eye-level at points of sale and promoting sale of tobacco products such as gutkha and beedi, alongside sweets, candies, and toys,” Kanoongo said.
At present, India loses more than 13 lakh of its citizens annually to tobacco and second hand smoke. “The number of tobacco users is rising and it is scary to note that children between 13 and 15 years of age constitute 8.5% per cent of them,” said Prof (Dr) Uma Kumar, Head of Rheumatology Department, AIIMS, New Delhi.
Long-term use of tobacco is hazardous and is a known cause for cardio-vascular problems, neurological disorders, stroke, reduction in immunity, recurrent infections, respiratory illnesses, and auto-immune conditions. She called for various policy measures to protect the youth from this menace.
Shweta Shalini, youth leader and BJP spokesperson for Maharashtra, said that Swami Vivekananda had described youth as the strength of the country and that health should be the top priority for them. However, today they are the most at risk of tobacco. She emphasised on the need for strict policy initiatives against tobacco. Shalini referring to the e-book titled ‘What India Wants’, released during the programme, said that it has been proven once again that the people of India want taxes on tobacco products to be increased in order to save the youth from this menace. Even a large number of tobacco users, themselves, favour a hike in taxes.
The e-book released on this occasion ‘What India Wants’, is a compilation of results from various polls and surveys that suggest more than 88 per cent respondents want the proposed amendments to the tobacco control laws to come into effect. The poll results also indicate a sense of urgency among the masses to make India tobacco-free. A scientific survey conducted in 10 states and several Twitter polls conducted by various concerned citizens are included in this e-book.
Tobacco consumption is striking deeper roots in the country and increasingly engulfing our children and youth. Children as young as 10 years of age are now using tobacco products, according to the latest Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4). Therefore, experts insist on increasing taxes and passing of the proposed amendments to the tobacco-control law, COTPA, to ensure better deterrence to tobacco consumption.
Under the National Youth Week starting from January 12, the Central government is also organising many national level programs.