The Financial Express
Significant progress has been made in the global—and Indian—fight against tobacco. According to WHO, there are 1.1 billion smokers globally, of which, the recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey indicates, 60% of smokers intend to quit and over 40% had attempted quitting in the 12 months preceding the survey. Also, the WHO has made significant progress in creating awareness about the ills of tobacco as well as in coming up with ways to help people cure their addiction. Today, 2.4 billion people in 23 countries can avail of these services as compared to just 0.4 billion in 2007. The WHO gives credit for this to the efforts of countries like India and Brazil, primarily. Yet, as its Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2019 points out, tobacco firms are trying a new tack, to promote ‘healthy’ alternatives to cigarettes! These include vapourisers, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), heated tobacco products (HTPs). However, as the report points out, the bulk of the intoxicants are the same as in cigarettes, so the health impact is not too different. So apart from the older problems of tobacco firms trying to interfere with political and legislative processes in various countries and operating through various front groups, they are now making unproven claims and discrediting proven science; exaggerating the economic importance of the industry is another way to slow government action.
The burden of smoking-related diseases on the economy is huge and required $422 billion in global healthcare spending in 2012. As per the report, reduction in tobacco consumption will result in greater savings for nations—productivity loss because of smoking-related deaths and illnesses, have been estimated to be as high as $1,436 billion. While WHO has its own methods to help people quit smoking, if worldwide risks of tobacco consumption are to be curbed, nations have to take a strict stand against the tobacco industry and its so-called ‘alternatives’ that create a vicious cycle of addiction, illnesses and deaths.
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