Hyderabad: There is an irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry and public health. Tobacco industry use their enormous wealth, power to influence policies and keep doing all possible manipulations and interference in public health.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has recently adopted a Code of Conduct restricting officials and staff from collaborating with the tobacco industry. This in line with Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which calls for the protection of public health policies from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry. The guideline also restricts any interaction with the industry unless it is strictly necessary to effectively regulate or control the industry and its products.
India is one of the early signatories of the FCTC as a part of which many legislations have been passed in the country and effectively implemented. The FCTC also mandates that the Government at the national, State and district level should restrict access of tobacco industry in terms of public health aspects.
Article 5.3 of the FCTC requires that “in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”. One of the recommendations in the guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 is that the state parties must establish measures to limit interactions with the tobacco industry and “should interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products.”
Eliminating tobacco industry interference in health policy is potentially the single most effective measure that Government can adopt to protect tobacco control activities, thereby addressing the death and disease caused by the tobacco epidemic.
India’s national law, the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) has been effective in certain areas, there are still many aspects that need to be amended and strengthened. Such amendments would further to align it with our global commitments under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and more effectively protect India’s population from the dangers of tobacco use.
India has the second largest number of tobacco users (268 million or 28.6% of all adults in India) in the world – of these at least 12 lakh die every year from tobacco related diseases. The total direct and indirect cost of diseases attributable to tobacco use was a staggering Rupees 1.04 lakh crore ($17 billion) in 2011 or 1.16% of India’s GDP.