WHO calls for raising tax on tobacco to check consumption

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Mumbai: The World Health Organisation(WHO) has called for increasing tax on tobacco products to highlight health risks associated with its use.

"Raising taxes is one of our strongest weapons to fight out tobacco. It is the most cost-effective way of reducing tobacco use. Essentially, as tax goes up, death and disease go down. Raising taxes on tobacco is a win-win situation. It is good for people's health and good for the economy," WHO representative to India Dr Nata Menabde told PTI in an e-mail interview, on the eve of World No Tobacco Day.

 There is a need to develop a comprehensive tax policy for all tobacco products, making it less affordable over time and thereby reducing consumption and prevalence, Menabde said.

"A tax increase that raises prices of tobacco products by 10 per cent is estimated to reduce tobacco consumption by 4-5 percent," she added.

According to WHO estimates, India is the world's second largest consumer of tobacco products (after China), with an average of 9 lakh people in the country losing their lives every year due to tobacco-related diseases.

Several others suffer from ailments like cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases and diseases of gums and oral cavity.

Almost 50 per cent of cancers among men and 25 per cent among women are related to tobacco use in India, as per a report of Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).

The total economic cost of tobacco-related diseases in India was an estimated Rs 30,833 crores in 2002-03.

The most prevalent form of tobacco usage is smokeless tobacco like gutka. Other commonly consumed tobacco products include cigarettes, bidis and cigars.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India (GATS), a survey among the age group of 15 years and above revealed that nearly 35 per cent of the adult Indian population consumes some form of tobacco.

As per the Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2009, 14.6 per cent of 13-15 year old students in India were using tobacco in some form.

Ayurvedic medicine experts say that while addiction to tobacco use cannot be stopped suddenly, it can certainly be reduced gradually.

"The main Ayurvedic psychological approach towards quitting smoking or other addictions is to not stop all of a sudden but to reduce in gradual steps. The idea is to notice everything about the act," said Dr Vyanketesh Joshi, MD Ayurveda and Chief trustee of Mumbai-based Siddh Dhyan Foundation.

"Increased attention should be given to all sensations, sounds and smells while consuming tobacco. If this is practised with total dedication, consciousness will do the rest all by itself," he added.

Dr Meghna Shah, Dean of Homoeopathic institute 'The Other Song' in Mumbai, recommends help from a professional homoeopath for "constitutional remedy" for a person intending to quit tobacco usage. She says this remedy has the potential to strengthen a person both physically and psychologically. "There are even some homoeopathic remedies that make the person develop distaste for tobacco," she said.

World No Tobacco Day is observed every year on May 31 and intends to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe, which currently leads to 5.4 million deaths worldwide annually.



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