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Low tobacco tax, poor health


In India, 28.6% of adults above 15 years and 8.5% of students aged 13-15 years use tobacco in some form or the other, which makes the country the second largest consumer of tobacco in the world.


GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Children, Government Policies and Initiatives), GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Statutory Bodies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Issues with the use of tobacco in India
  2. About Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)
  3. Highlights of Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)
  4. Steps taken in India to reduce tobacco usage
  5. What are the recommendations of experts regarding tobacco use?

Issues with the use of tobacco in India

  • Tobacco use is known to be a major risk factor for several non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic lung diseases.
  • Smokeless tobacco contains many cancer-causing toxins and its use increases the risk of cancers of the head, neck, throat, oesophagus and oral cavity (including cancer of the mouth, tongue, lip and gums) as well as various dental diseases.
  • India also bears an annual economic burden of over ₹1,77,340 crore on account of tobacco use. Despite these concerns, India does not tax much to discourage the consumption of tobacco.
  • At the current rate, India may not be able to achieve a 30% tobacco use reduction by 2025 as envisaged in the National Health Policy of 2017 by the Government of India.

India doesn’t tax enough on tobacco

  • The tax structure has not incorporated any added tax on tobacco products except a few minor changes introduced in the 2020-21 Union Budget.
  • In the pre-GST period, State governments used to regularly raise value-added tax (VAT) on tobacco products. This is not the case after the introduction of GST. It effectively means some current smokers smoke more now and some non-smokers have started smoking.

About Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)

  • The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4) was conducted in 2019 by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) under the MoHFW.
  • The survey was designed to produce national estimates of tobacco use among school going children aged 13-15 years at the state level and Union Territory (UT) by sex, location of school (rural-urban), and management of school (public-private).
  • The survey’s objective is to provide information on tobacco use, cessation, second-hand smoke, access and availability, exposure to anti-tobacco information, awareness and receptivity to tobacco marketing, knowledge, and attitudes.

Highlights of Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)

  • India has the second largest number (268 million) of tobacco users in the world and of these 13 lakh die every year from tobacco-related diseases.
  • Nearly 27% of all cancers in India are due to tobacco usage.
  • There has been a 42% decline in tobacco use among 13-15 year-old school going children in the last decade.
  • Nearly one-fifth of the students aged 13-15 used any form of the tobacco product (smoking, smokeless, and any other form) in their life.
  • Use of any form of tobacco was higher among boys. Prevalence of tobacco use among boys was 9.6% and among girls was 7.4%.
  • Tobacco use among school going children was highest in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram and lowest in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka.
  • More than 29% of students in India were exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • 38% of cigarettes, 47% of bidi smokers and 52% of smokeless tobacco users initiated the use before their tenth birthday.
  • The median age of initiation to cigarette and bidi-smoking, and smokeless tobacco use were 11.5 years, 10.5 years and 9.9 years respectively.
  • 52% of students noticed anti-tobacco messages in the mass media and 18% of students noticed tobacco advertisements or promotions when visiting points of sale.
  • 85% of school heads were aware of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003 and 83% of schools were aware of the policy to display ‘tobacco-free school’ boards.

Steps taken in India to reduce tobacco usage

  1. Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, (COTPA) 2003: replaced the Cigarettes Act of 1975 (largely limited to statutory warnings- ‘Cigarette Smoking is Injurious to Health’ to be displayed on cigarette packs and advertisements. It did not include non-cigarettes). The 2003 Act also included cigars, bidis, cheroots, pipe tobacco, hookah, chewing tobacco, pan masala, and gutka.
  2. Adoption of WHO FCTC: which is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO. It was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic and is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health.
  3. National Tobacco Quitline Services (NTQLS): with the potential to reach a large number of tobacco users with the sole objective to provide telephone-based information, advice, support, and referrals for tobacco cessation.
  4. Promulgation of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Ordinance, 2019: which prohibits Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement of e-Cigarettes.

What are the recommendations of experts regarding tobacco use?

  • In order to prevent children and youth from initiating tobacco use at an early age, the experts have urged the government to:
    • Increase the legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21
    • Impose a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising
    • Promote and ban sale of single sticks of cigarettes/bidis
  • It is scientifically established that if a person is kept away from tobacco till the age of 21 and above, there is a very high probability that he/she will remain tobacco-free for the rest of his life.
  • Several countries had increased the minimum age of sale of tobacco products to 21 and banned sale of single cigarettes to control their easy accessibility and affordability to youth.
  • Pre and post-implementation data show increasing the tobacco age to 21 will help to prevent young people from ever starting to smoke and to reduce the deaths, disease and health care costs caused by tobacco use.
  • Countries are increasingly recognising that almost all those who become long term tobacco users begin tobacco use while they are adolescents.

-Source: The Hindu

July 2024