India'a health minister favors stringent regulation of tobacco use in order to control non-communicable diseases in country

NEW DELHI , May 29, 2014 () – Sale of tobacco products might soon come under stringent regulation with the new Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan favouring such a move to control non-communicable diseases which are on the increase in the country.

"It makes perfect economic sense to regulate the use of tobacco in order to achieve the goal of controlling non-communicable disease in India. Tobacco use is a preventable risk factor for major diseases and the resultant economic consequences," Harshvardhan said after releasing a report on the economic burden of tobacco in India at an event in the capital.

He said that he firmly believed that unless all come together and fight back tobacco resolutely, the financial burden of tobacco-attributable diseases will continue to push the families of millions of tobacco users towards poverty and steadily decelerate the economic growth of the country.

Presently, there is no strict regulation on the sale of tobacco. However, the Minister did not specify on how what steps he propose to take in this regard.The union health minister released the highlights of the report on the "Economic Burden of Tobacco Related Diseases in India". The report, supported by the health ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO), has been prepared by the Public Health Foundation of India.

The report estimates the direct and indirect costs from all diseases caused due to tobacco use and, specifically, the costs of respiratory diseases, tuberculosis, cardiovascular diseases and cancers. It highlights that the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India in the year 2011 amounted to a staggering Rs1,04,500 crores.

"Looking through GDP lens this is 1.16 percent of GDP and 12 percent more than the combined State and Central government expenditure on health care in 2011," says the report.Nata Menabde, WHO representative in India, added, "the evidence couldn't be more clear and stark. It is, therefore, imperative that we seize the moment. Raising taxes is one of our strongest weapons to fight out tobacco and this is what the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control mandates."

"A tax increase that raises prices of tobacco products by 10 percent is estimated to reduce tobacco consumption by four to five percent. Essentially, as the tax goes up, death and disease go down," she said. At the function, Harshvardhan unveiled a print advertisement featuring cricketer Rahul Dravid, India's Brand Ambassador for Tobacco Control. Published by HT Syndication with permission from Pioneer. For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at htsyndication@hindustantimes.com

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