India may back stricter tobacco control at UN meet

Rising incidents of cancer in India is a direct result of tobacco usage


Sonal Matharu | July 11, 2011

Stricter measures for tobacco control must be brought at the highest level to prevent and control non-communicable diseases. This is the stand India may put forward at the high level United Nations general assembly meeting this September.

Tobacco is one of the leading causes of these diseases and one billion people would die due to illnesses caused by tobacco use in this century, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Head and neck surgeon from Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, who is the global cancer ambassador from India to present the perspective of the civic society, told Governance Now that during his interaction with India’s UN representatives in New York and 80 other ambassadors from other country, he stressed on the “rising incidents of cancer in India that is a direct result of unabated tobacco usage”.

The UN general assembly is holding a high-level meeting in September on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) with main focus on cancer, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory disease.

“Tobacco industry uses the farmers’ issue whenever the word “ban” is used. We showed statistics to impress upon UN representatives that the tobacco farmers are still living in abject poverty and in fact they too are victims of the unscrupulous tobacco industry,” Chaturvedi wrote in an email.
The upcoming UN special summit is a historical opportunity to prevent one million unnecessary deaths and several millions disabilities in India. If this resolution is adopted in September, there will be a dramatic reduction in tobacco usage with eventual decrease in cancer, he added. 

There are 200 million Indians suffering from NCDs which account for staggering 50 percent of all deaths. Nearly a third of Indians (270 million) are tobacco users and one third of them will die prematurely due to this habit. Tobacco use causes cancer, stroke, heart disease, lung disease, among many other ailments, according to Global Adult Tobacco Survey, 2010.

Binoy Mathew from the ngo Voluntary Health Association of India said, “Tobacco use killed 100 million people in the 20th century. If current trends continue, tobacco will kill one billion people in the 21st century. Statistics show nearly 0.9 million deaths occur in India every year due to tobacco use compared with 5.5 million deaths worldwide.”

The UN general assembly is the principal decision-making body of the UN, representing all 192 member states. The meeting will bring together heads of states from the world to develop global strategies to address the urgent problem of the rising rate of chronic or non-communicable diseases, with focus on cancer, as the world’s leading cause of death.



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