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Wake up call on Diwali
The total cost of tobacco use in 2004, was estimated at whopping 1.7 billion USD ? not including premature mortality costs. This is much higher than the amount Government of India spent on tobacco control activities during 2006.
THE GLOBAL Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) India – 2010 rings wake up call to the policy makers to contain health hazards and prevent loss of invaluable human capital. It is disturbing to know that about one million people die due to tobacco related diseases every year in India. This is not only inflicting huge human resource wastage but also triggering an economic loss due to staggering medical expenses for treatment of tobacco related diseases. The present scenario in India demands a more effective and serious mass media anti tobacco campaign. The incidence of tobacco consumption is observed among the urban and rural males as well as females of different age groups.
 
GATS India reveals that the estimated number of tobacco users in India is 274.9 million of which 48 per cent are males and 20 per cent are females. Consumption of various forms of tobacco among the teenagers raises several eyebrows. Average age of initiation of tobacco use is 17.8, however, 25.8 per cent females start tobacco consumption before they attain 15 years. About 61.1 per cent tobacco users have noticed the health warning while only 31.5 per cent of them thought of quitting smoking.

The total cost of tobacco use in 2004, was estimated at whopping 1.7 billion USD — not including premature mortality costs. This is much higher than the amount Government of India spent on tobacco control activities during 2006. Notably, total economic cost of tobacco use is significantly higher than the total excise tax revenues collected from all tobacco products in India during 2003-2004 financial year. In 2004, approximately 411 million USD was lost in income due to tobacco-related work absenteeism. In 2004, direct healthcare costs attributable to tobacco reached 1.2 billion USD, 4.7 per cent of India’s total national healthcare expenditure.

The appalling condition requires well planned anti smoking campaign considering geo-political disparities, diverse socio-economic customs etc. For successful anti tobacco campaign it is essential to choose an appropriate combination of communication tools after thoroughly studying the inter-regional disparities. Identifying the target groups is important factor for content management of the campaign. Emphasis should be on building capacity of the opinion leaders up to grass root level. Involvement of local people in anti tobacco campaign is expected to yield better result. In India, tobacco consumption has two forms – smoking and smokeless. From the GATS India, it is evident that incidence of smokeless tobacco consumption is higher in rural areas while smoking is higher in urban areas. For rural areas, National Rural Health Mission
(NRHM) may act as an effective communication channel to curb tobacco consumption.

Government may tag various non-government organisations (NGOs) in anti tobacco campaign.
Of course, few have raised voiced in favour of the tobacco industries and people associated with the industries. To this end the statement of Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare of India, Ghulam Nabi Azad is significant. He has stated that while livelihood of tobacco growing farmers can’t be endangered, we must work towards moving the farmers and farm workers out of the tobacco industry. “We can’t indefinitely tolerate a public health hazard in the name of protecting livelihoods”, he added. Truly, it is time to wake up and save our future generation from tobacco menace. On Diwali, let us take an unshakable resolution to quit killer tobacco and help others also. Surely, that will be a perfect Diwali gift to ourselves, to our family members and to our communities!
 
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