(Practice Question: Tobacco use has been a widespread cause of concern worldwide especially among the young Indian population. Comment. Do you think new high-tech “heated tobacco products” can provide a suitable solution? – 150 words)
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of deaths worldwide. It is reported to kill an estimated seven million people every year. On average, tobacco users lose 15 years of their life. Up to half of all users will die prematurely due to tobacco-related causes by any year or time estimation. Most of these deaths will be in middle- and low-income nations, accounting for almost 80% of all tobacco-related deaths. India is the third largest tobacco producer and the second largest consumer of tobacco worldwide. Tobacco-related mortality in India is estimated at upwards of 1.3 million people, with one million being attributed to smoking and the rest to smokeless-tobacco use.
The young population being targeted:
Six out of the 10 countries that account for two thirds of the world’s smokers are developing countries. India accounts for 10% of the world’s smokers, behind only China, which accounts for a fourth of smokers worldwide. India is a very young country. Half of its population is under the age of 25; two-thirds are less than 35 years. Therefore the risk persists more in case of India. Young people in the developing world are at greatest risk of tobacco addiction and suffering from the related health risks. As wealthy countries crack down on tobacco consumption by raising taxes and imposing stringent rules against tobacco advertising, the tobacco market is shifting to newer markets in developing nations like India.
Wrongful marketing by tobacco companies:
In the last decade, tobacco control in the form of restrictions and curbs being imposed by governments across the globe has taken centre stage, which in turn has affected the profits of tobacco firms. The tobacco industry is also attempting to maintain profits and keep people addicted by introducing new high-tech “heated tobacco products”, or HTPs, sticks of tobacco that are heated and look very similar to conventional cigarettes. These are being targeted at youth, who are being fed with the idea that they are less harmful than cigarettes because they do not burn tobacco and so produce lower levels of multiple toxicants (the main cause of smoking-related diseases).
The World Health Organisation says “there is no evidence to demonstrate that HTPs are less harmful than conventional tobacco products”. The European Respiratory Society is clear that heated tobacco products are “harmful and addictive; undermine smokers’ wish to quit, and are a temptation for non-smokers and minors”.
India has been a pioneer in tobacco control, having enacted the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, and launched a dedicated National Tobacco Control Programme in 2007-08.
There is a case for raising tobacco taxes, banning tobacco advertising and promotion, and introducing regulations to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke to prevent teenagers from falling for tobacco products. Unless such steps are taken quickly, the disease and death burden from tobacco consumption is likely to rise sharply in the developing world.