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Time to reformulate policies on tobacco, alcohol and packaged foods
The Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) study 2010 has underscored some very significant public health challenges India faces. It has alerted the Indian Government to adopt some epidemiological approaches at the national level.

THE WELL-known risk factors, according to the GBD study, are tobacco use, alcohol consumption, deficient diet and exposure to air pollutants; all these factors are the true examples of unhealthy trends in the country. The air pollutants produced due to burning of unclean fuels is the major cause of concern.

Hypertension, diabetes, metabolic disorders, malnutrition in children, infectious diseases and dietary deficiencies are the other major issues in India which also need epidemiological surveillance work. Apart from diseases, increase in road accident deaths is another worrying issue.

The National Public Health Policy has to embark on a mission to turn tobacco fields into fruit orchards, an expert believes. This is the need of the hour because tobacco use is becoming a major reason for rising incidences of cancer and is also the reason for the absence of sufficient fruit in the diet.

India has the massive market for tobacco products, although consumption patterns differ from other countries. The high consumption of salt present in the packaged food increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and the fruits with potassium content help in stabilizing the blood pressure, reported The Hindu.

The looming national problem is alcohol consumption; it is also a major risk factor for Ischemic heart disease, many cancers and gastrointestinal problems, which includes irreversible organ failure as well. The state governments are only looking at the revenue from liquor trade but they are neglecting the looming health crisis due to alcohol consumption.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) has projected a 30 percent growth of liquor consumption every year. The young generation is getting into alcohol consumption at a very early age. The problem is no longer confined to the older generation; it is spreading very rapidly, breaking the age barriers.

India’s public health policy is mainly affected by three powerful sectors - tobacco, alcohol and the packaged food industry, which is under enormous political influence. The easy access of the younger generation to alcohol and tobacco has highly influenced their entire life course. The government should take some serious steps to salvage the situation before it’s too late.

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