A voice of tobacco control activists and supporters staged a demonstration in Chennai to Close Down Tobacco Promotion Board for better Tobacco Control. The Demonstrators demanded the Government to Close Down Tobacco Board and Include Sections in COTPA (Amendment) Bill, 2015 to close down Tobacco Board and Related Departments.
While the Department of Health & Family Welfare are gearing for a better tobacco control act by making amendments in Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), the Department fails to see the destructive nature of the Tobacco Board which specifically works for tobacco promotion. The Tobacco Board which comes under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry comprises of Government Ministers and IAS, IFS Officials working with the mission to strive for the overall development of tobacco Growers and the Indian Tobacco Industry. It has branches different states including Tamil Nadu. The tax money paid by the citizens of India is being used to promote tobacco which is the cause of 10 Lakh Indians per year.
Mr. S. Cyril Alexander, State Convener of TNPFTC specified that there is an inherent contradiction between public health policies of tobacco control and commercial interests of the tobacco board. The two cannot fit into the same sword and there cannot be any compromise between the two. On one side, the budget has very little allocation for tobacco control and on the other side, huge amount of money is being spent on the board. It leaves us to question as to whether the Government cares about the health of the public and why such double standards have been in existence. If public health is the priority of the Government, then the any kind of promotion of tobacco has to be stopped immediately. Only then can we ensure effective tobacco control practices.
Mr. Marimuthu K.P,, Convener Membership, TNPFTC added that the Tax Money of People of India is being used for tobacco promotion, whereas the same money can be used for better public health.
Mr. Andrew Sesuraj, Convener Capacity Sesuraj said that it is preposterous that such a board is existent and effective tobacco control can only be possible through the closure of such boards.
The Tobacco Board and Related Departments are also violating WHO FCTC Article 5.3 and India is party to WHO FCTC. Article 5.3 mentions about Protecting Health Policies from Tobacco Industry Interference. When the Guidelines Article 5.3 specifies that the State must avoid any interaction with the tobacco industry, it is shameful to mention that a Tobacco Board functioning through the State is existent which works towards promotion of tobacco and tobacco industries.
The Demonstration saw the participations of experts from various fields such as Doctors, Health Professionals, Social Workers, Academicians, Advocates, Members of Nicotine Anonymous and so on.