India faces tobacco epidemic with a large section of society smoking and chewing tobacco. Drastic measures are required to fix this problem. Tobacco smoking and chewing contributes to increased cancers, increased birth defects, reduced sperm counts, erectile dysfunction, increased cardiac problems, increased hypertension and increased stroke along with very poor oral hygiene. Tobacco is a burden on society and unlike alcohol, which provides physiological benefits to a section of the healthy population in small amounts, nicotine is not a mixed blessing but simply a curse. If one normalizes income, the cost of cigarettes, as well as chewing tobacco, have fallen (not risen as much as income) and their continued ready availability is draining the society. We (Ishan Goel and Dr. Sukant Khurana) propose few strong steps to reduce tobacco consumption in a sustainable way:
- Label all health risks and damages due to both products related to chewing tobacco and smoking tobacco. In the case of cigarettes, individual ones and not just packs should carry a detailed warning – both on the cigarettes and the individual wrapping that should be provided for each cigarette. This is needed because cigarettes are largely sold individually in India and not as full packs. Each small gukta and other chewing tobacco product pouch should have a detailed pamplet on damages due to tobacco, in addition to few major health hazard on pouch exterior itself.
- The government can easily tax the products more to regulate their flow.
- Tax rebates should be provided to movies and television serials not showing a depiction of tobacco consumption. While banning presentation of tobacco consumption could introduce inaccuracies in certain depictions and interfere with artistic freedom, models of incentives should be used to encourage media from refraining from showing these products until absolutely necessary. A further incentive should be given in form of tax breaks to productions that show tobacco in a bad light and break the macho image associated with smoking.
- A complete ban on tobacco product advertizements under any circumstances and strict implementation of such a ban.
- Providing farmers subsidies and alternatives to shift from tobacco farming to other crops.
- Last but not least, an establishment of better rehabilitation centers.
India desperately needs lowering of tobacco consumption and we hope some of our suggestions contribute towards such a change.
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