Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Has tobacco made our laws also impotent?

World No-Tobacco Day is observed on 31st May 2010. India is a signatory for the WHO sponsored FCTC Protocol (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) and has committed itself to show significant reduction in cultivation and use of tobacco and its products by the year 2020. More than nine million people are dying every year due to tobacco related diseases. Direct link between cancer and tobacco has been established. One puff can alter the DNA. It has the ability to decrease man’s sexual libido. Women who consume tobacco products and want to live like men have greater risks of miscarriage, premature menopause and wrinkling of skin. Even sixth grade children are becoming victims of this habit. Nicotine is an addictive substance and can make you its life log slave. It can cause a number of deadly diseases. Smokers are also contributing to climate change and global warming through smoking and spewing CO2, Carbon Monoxide and other green house gases. Tobacco contains more than 4000 chemicals of which 238 have carcinogenic qualities.

With all these minus points, tobacco still continues to attract more and more smokers (the claim that actual number of smokers have come down needs verification). Bans on smoking in public places are only on paper; those who are responsible for enforcing such prohibitions are not performing their duties and responsibilities. Mere passing legislations and making rules does not serve the purpose with which such rules were formed. Surrogate advertisements and sponsoring mega events like sports, musical programmes etc., are only making the brand names to be remembered by people. Authorities are not able to provide two pots of potable water to the poorest of the poor but are ensuring that tobacco products are available at every nook and corner of our country.

Authorities are even procuring tobacco grown without permit by bending and circumventing rules and regulations. While farmers growing other products like paddy, raagi etc., are committing suicide for want to quality seeds, fertilizers, insecticides etc., the permit holding farmers of tobacco are assured of supply of all their needs well in advance to make them rich by helping them grow the killer weed tobacco in abundant quantity.

Authorities must stop adopting double standards in dealing with tobacco and its deadly effects on human beings. On the one hand they are extending all farming supports to farmers and on the other hand, they are providing budgetary support for Research and Development for curing cancer. Loss of human resources and skilled work force due to avoidable deaths attributable to tobacco consumption is outweighing all the gains from duties, taxes on sale of tobacco products.

World over, polio eradication has become a major programme for preventive action. Tobacco kills but authorities are mulling over reduction of cultivation and its consumption. This paradoxical situation can be avoided by strictly enforcing the rules, regulations and controls over cultivation and consumption of tobacco products. Authorities must come out of the shadow of tobacco lobbies and enforce strict vigilance and punishments to violators of law. Non-smokers are also suffering due to passive smoking and are being made to pay for meeting the expenditure being incurred on smokers for curing their self-earned cancer. This is not social justice. Availability of tobacco products in every nook and corner at affordable prices is committing more and more people to take to consuming tobacco.

Wean away the farmers growing tobacco legally or illegally, lure them, tempt them with prospects of alternative cropping pattern and saving mankind, create awareness about the ill effects of soil depleting tobacco cultivation and how thousands of trees are being cut to provide them fuel for curing tobacco, in turn how the forest wealth is dwindling and how such denuding nature is creating climate change, global warming etc., put the fear of guilt on their consciousness on how they along with authorities are partners in homicide not amounting to murder of gullible people.

It is Time to kill the killer weed and help people to live a healthy life. Wars are being waged against certain other products like alcohol, drugs etc., but tobacco is causing untold hardships and miseries to the people in alarming proportion. When we know that certain products are deadly for human consumption, why not eliminate them from the face of the earth? Are there any takers for this billion dollar question? Has tobacco (lobby) made our laws also impotent?

Article by:
Vasanthkumar Mysoremath
Convenor, Anti-Tobacco Forum
and Social Activist, MGP

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