New Delhi, The national and international community was appalled to read in media that an Intelligence Bureau report of Home Ministry portrayed India’s success in controlling tobacco as a threat to the nation. Badly hurt by the media report, Dr Kailash Sharma, Director (Academics) of Tata Memorial Hospital, Department of Atomic Energy, GoI, wrote a letter to Honorable Home Minister with a copy to Prime Minister, Health Minister and National Security Advisor. Tata Memorial Hospital has always been in the forefront of Tobacco Control movement of India to augment the efforts of Government of India in controlling this public health disaster.
The IB report (as quoted in media) says - restrictions on tobacco use in India would encourage consumption of more injurious toxicants like alcohol and narcotics.”. It goes on to say “…..this includes adverse economic impact on 3.5 crore persons of the forced closure of tobacco-related farming/industry”
On 2nd June, 2017 Shri JP Nadda, Union Minister of Health released a report that showed 17% relative decrease in tobacco consumption in India between 2010 to 2016. The maximum decrease (54%) in consumption happened in the age group of 17 to 17 years. In absolute numbers, the Government’s campaign saved 81 lac less Indians picking up the lethal habit. The report also showed that the new set of gory pictorial warnings have significantly contributed to this decline.
While celebrations are still not over, in a shocking move, an intelligence bureau report of Home Ministry labelled the laudable achievements of Government of India as the result of an “international conspiracy” to cause economic instability in India.
For his leadership and commitment to advancing tobacco control World Health Organization conferred Director General’s Award to India’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Mr J P Nadda, in India. Accepting the award, he said that it is recognition of the collective endeavor of the Ministry, members of NGO, social activists, civil society organizations. The Home Ministry’s IB report, belittled this accomplishment as a ramification of “foreign agenda”.
Dr Sharma’s letter questions the use the word “Anti-Tobacco Lobbying” in a negative sense when it actually saves lives. Needless to say that this “lobbying” is in complete synchrony with the Governments own agenda. While tobacco industry lobbies to enhance their business, public heath activists are lobbying to save disease, death and deprivation. Towards this, the IB report conveniently ignores certain facts. International Cigarette Industries have also hugely invested in India’s cigarette companies. Indian tobacco industry has consistently challenged India’s tobacco control policy in several courts by engaging some of the most expensive lawyers/advocates. It is well known that, tobacco lobby works systematically to dilute or delay tobacco control policies to enhance their business.
The letter also questions the logic of supporting livelihood of 3.5 crore people by killing 12 lac innocent Indians every year. The letter mentions that net revenue from tobacco is only 17% of the loss from Tobacco.
Dr Sharma reminds of the strong anti-tobacco sentiments messages of Honorable Prime Minister that is in Public domain. It also mentions anti-tobacco pledges signed by honorable Home Minister himself and Shri Kiren Rijuju, MOS, Home Affairs.
As per the message of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on May 31st, 2015 “World No Tobacco Day reminds us of the harms associated with tobacco consumption & a day to reaffirm our commitment to reduce this menace. His message to nation on May 31st 2014 was equally encouraging – “On World No Tobacco Day, lets pledge to spread awareness on the risks of tobacco consumption & work to reduce tobacco consumption in India. Tobacco not only affects those consuming it but also people around. By saying no to tobacco, let us lay the foundation of a healthier India.”
At the end the letter pleads to investigate if the report has been instigated by the Tobacco Lobby to derail the efforts of Government of India and tarnish our image internationally.