As women join the gang, govt. chops anti-tobacco budget outlays

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/Zee Research Group/Delhi

Even as India continues to be among top global destinations for tobacco consumers, the health ministry has chopped the anti-tobacco budget allocation.

The ministry cut by 16 per cent the budget estimate on anti-tobacco campaign during 2012-13. The ministry’s anti-tobacco campaign budget estimate during 2012-13 was Rs 42 crore as against 50 crore during 2011-12. The ministry had actually spent only Rs 0.93 core until August 2012 on containing the use of tobacco in the country.

Commenting on the declining allocation on anti-tobacco campaign, Amit Yadav at HRIDAY-SHAN, (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth – Student Health Action Network), said, “Our recent studies show that the tobacco approaching age amongst the youngsters has gone shorter by 20 per cent and at this point it is quite depressing that the allocations and expenditures under anti-tobacco campaign are declining.”

The declining trend can also be witnessed in the allocation made for executing the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP), one of the major initiatives to curb the tobacco use in India. The allocation under NTCP reported a decline from Rs 2 crores in 2011-12 to Rs 99 lakhs in 2012-13. This marked a sharp fall of 51 per cent in its allocation over the last fiscal.

The NTCP was launched initially in nine states covering 18 districts in 2007-08. Now it has been initiated in 42 districts of 21 states in order to implement various provisions under Tobacco Control Act (COTPA), 2003, and to create awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco consumption.

India has witnessed a marginal hike in its overall tobacco users, according to a Lancet August 2012 study. The report observed that nine per cent more women in India are now getting vulnerable to the ill effects of tobacco.

As per the Lancet study, 20 per cent of women in India are now addicted to tobacco consumption when compared to a figure of 11.3 per cent published by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) in 2005-06.

Explaining the rationale behind the rising tobacco exposure of women, Yadav at HRIDAY – SHAN said, “Consumption of tobacco amongst women is rising because of the aggressive marketing strategies promoting tobacco use. Off late, many movies have started to portray women as smokers and this motivates young women to follow the odd trend.”

However, according to Lancet, the per cent of men tobacco users has come down from 57 per cent in 2005-06 to 48 per cent in 2012. The Lancet report further ranks India as the second highest tobacco users’ nation after China which approximately has 301 million tobacco users. But unlike China, where 95 per cent smoke manufactured cigarettes, India accounts for more of smokeless tobacco users.

For strengthening the efforts to reduce tobacco consumption across the world, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon recently opined, "On this World No Tobacco Day, let us push for progress that will cut tobacco-related deaths and enliven the battle against other non-communicable diseases, helping to create a healthier world for all.”