Tackling the Nicotine Threat

About 6 million people die from tobacco use every year, and it is expected that by 2030 the figure will grow. This calls for a concerted effort with clear emphasis on highlighting the awareness of the impact associated with tobacco use.

Unlike the handsome Marlboro models scouted and decked out by Leo Brunette, using tobacco is more deadly than the models’ deadly looks. But the stark difference is that tobacco actually kills. It causes premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, cancers and chronic obstructed pulmonary disease. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), about 6 million people die from tobacco use every year, and it is expected that by 2030 this figure will grow to more than 8 million a year. The economic cost it generates is another major burden that can impede socio-economic development.

Underscoring this magnitude, WHO urges countries around the world to observe No Tobacco Day. This year’s theme, Tobacco- a threat to development, proposes measures that government and public should take to promote health and development by confronting the crisis collectively. Today, tobacco control has been enshrined in Sustainable Development Agenda; the world body sees this as an effective means to help achieve SDG target of 3.4 of a one-third reduction globally by 2030.

Such concerted effort with clear emphasis is essential in highlighting the awareness of the impact associated with tobacco use. It costs an economy dearly because of the increased health-care costs and hampered productivity. It also aggravates health inequalities and heightens poverty since the poorest people spend less on essentials such as food, education and health care. WHO maintains that some 80% of premature deaths from tobacco occur in low- or middle-income countries, which face increased challenges to achieving their development goals.

Another harmful effect is the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used in growing tobacco which can be toxic and pollute water. Each year, tobacco cultivation uses 4.3 million hectares of land, and it results to global deforestation between 2% and 4%, highlights a WHO report. The same report also says that manufacturing it also produces over 2 million tonnes of solid waste.

In India, as many as 2,500 people die every day due to tobacco-related diseases, as per National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR). Smoking accounted for 1 in 5 deaths among men and 1 in 20 deaths among women, accounting for an estimated 9,30,000 deaths in 2010. NICPR also suggests that oral cancer is the most common cancer in India amongst men (11.28% of all cancers), fifth most frequently occurring cancer amongst women (4.3% of all cancers) and the third most frequently occurring cancer in India amongst both men and women. The figures only reflect high health-care costs and low productivity, a big economic burden for a developing nation to shoulder.

Until now, WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), an international treaty with 180 Parties, has been guiding the global fight against the tobacco epidemic. More than half the world’s countries, representing nearly 40% of the world’s population, have implemented at least one of the WHO FCTC’s most cost-effective measures. More countries are ever more willing to create firewalls to ward off interference from tobacco lobby in government’s control policy. Thanks to it, tobacco products are more expensive today. Under the new rules recently announced by the government, tobacco manufacturers in India will now have to display graphic pictures of throat cancer on cigarette and bidi packets and pictures of mouth cancer on chewing tobacco packets.

Businesses can also play a leading role by making it a focus area of their CSR intervention as governments alone cannot optimise outreach. In 2015, Bajaj Electricals created a pool of employees who volunteered as ‘anti-tobacco crusaders’ to help spread healthy living and urge people to abstain from tobacco consumption. Several such initiatives have been undertaken, but there is need for more. Broader public and private partnership can also be another way to respond.

If not acted, the toll could be more alarming. We, at Fiinovation, are of the view that those who use tobacco can quit the habit, and they can seek help in doing so. This, in turn, will protect their health as well as people exposed to second-hand smoke. Also, money not spent on tobacco can be used for other essential uses.

Bobo Meitei
Executive Editor, Fiinovation

Originally Content post on – http://www.fiinovation.co.in/tackling-nicotine-threat/