World No Tobacco Day: Another modification is warranted!
Posted on June 2, 2016 | By Knowledge Isotopes
This year’s theme of World No Tobacco Day – Get ready for plain packaging – highlights its global efforts to control tobacco products. WHO has introduced a plain, simple and a standardized packaging format for all tobacco products which prohibits the use of misleading packaging and labeling, attractions, advertisements, promotions and glamour which is the major reason of making people use it, followed by getting addicted to it. Rather, it would highlight the ill effects, health warning associated with its use. The main motive of such an effort is to save lives by reducing demand for tobacco products.
Countries following such a format of plain packaging have observed a steady decline in smoking prevalence, especially among those aged 14 and above. This is attributed to the improved packaging changes, which has resulted in reduction in consumption of tobacco products.
Even the tobacco companies are considering this to be a threat for their business as the misleading packaging and glamour highlighted on the packaging was a mobile advertisement for their products which also helped in promoting their products.
But would this really decrease tobacco consumption or reduce tobacco associated health issues prevalence in India? The answer is a bit disparate. Before discussing the same, let’s check out the trends about smoking in India. It has been reported that one million of deaths in India are tobacco related. As per WHO, there is a 50% probability of death among tobacco users. Moreover, the unreported tobacco-related deaths in India are expected to increase to 1.5 million annually by 2030 (http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/one-million-tobacco-deaths-in-india-every-year-yet-politicians-in-denial/story-AlCLK66RW6xi9raARYVXdL.html). The age- standardized prevalence have reported that among children (13-15 years), nearly 1/10 of adolescents have smoked cigarettes, and half among these started using tobacco before they turned 10 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17191409). In 2015, about 108 million of men between the age of 15–69 years were found to be engaged in smoking. Even 11 million women, aged 15–69 years, were reported smoking in 2015. The education has also shown its effect on the statistics of smoking as the prevalence of smoking was higher in illiterate men as compared to men with grade 10 or more education (http://www.cghr.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/low_bmjgh-smoking-trends-paper.pdf). As per the consumption of sticks, 93.2 billion sticks of cigarette have been reported to be used in 2014-15 (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Smoking-dips-10-in-2-years-in-India-but-women-smokers-up-sharply/articleshow/50347209.cms).
Now coming back to the question, the conflicting answer results from high taxes, the recently introduced modification in packaging and the trend of tobacco buying and intake among Indians.
Let me explain this one by one!
High taxes: A tax hike in tobacco products has positioned the nation in a dual winning status as more the taxes, more the revenue. Another success is associated with its health as more the taxes, less the sale, less the tobacco associated health issues.
Plain packaging: The recently introduced plain packaging will definitely affect the people, educated or illiterate, leading to a decline in its prevalence. The pictorial representation of its health warning as well as restriction of its misleading packaging will steal the show.
These two points inculcate a positivity of reducing tobacco consumption in India. However, the last, but not the least, point has resulted in a debate, i.e., the buying trend of tobacco in India. In India, the rich people or the ones who can afford tobacco products buy a complete box of cigarette. Moreover, they are well aware of the health issues associated with consumption of tobacco products. But, what about the kids who are poor, illiterate, or are young! These children are rarely seen buying a complete box. Rather, they buy 1-2 sticks at a time. The reasons of them buying 1-2 cigarettes could be easy storage, desire to try different brands, or the high cost associated with it. No modification has been made on the cigarette stick. So, as per the plain packaging format, how will these kids get awareness or get affected?
The present scenario warrants a modification in the packaging of cigarette stick as well. It can be a pictorial representation of health warning, or an unattractive color of stick, etc. So that each time the person smokes, he realizes its ill effects on his health. The modification in cigarette stick and well as the box packaging might go hand in hand with strengthening the voice of health warnings as well as suppressing/ banning the fair weather glamour of misleading packaging and labeling.
Kripi Vohra Syal
Dr. Shivali Arora
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