Tobacco Control

  • India is the second-largest consumer of tobacco in the world, with 28.6% of adults above 15 years and 8.5% of students aged 13-15 years use tobacco in some form or the other.
  • In India, over 1.3 million deaths are attributable to tobacco use every year amounting to 3500 deaths per day, imposing a lot of avoidable socio-economic burden.
  • Smokers face a 40-50% higher risk of developing severe disease deaths from Covid-19.
  • Due to the efforts of Central and State Governments, the prevalence of tobacco use has decreased by six percentage points from 34.6% in 2009-10 to 28.6% in 2016-17.
  • As per the WHO study (Published in August 2020) titled “Economic Costs of Diseases and Deaths Attributable to Tobacco Use in India”.
    • It has been estimated that the economic burden of diseases and deaths attributable to use of tobacco in India was as high as Rs. 1.77 lakh crores, amounting to approx 1% of GDP.
  • Tobacco smokers face a 40-50% higher risk of developing severe disease deaths from COVID-19.
Measures towards tobacco control in India:
  • Cigarettes Act,1975: The act mandated the display of statutory health warnings in advertisement and on cartons and cigarette packages.
  • India adopted the tobacco control provisions under WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
  • Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003:
    • It replaced the Cigarettes Act of 1975 (largely limited to statutory warnings- ‘Cigarette Smoking is Injurious to Health’ to be displayed on cigarette packs and advertisements. It did not include non-cigarettes).
    • The 2003 Act also included cigars, bidis, cheroots, pipe tobacco, hookah, chewing tobacco, pan masala, and gutka.
  • Promulgation of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Bill, 2019: Which prohibits Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement of e-Cigarettes.
  • National Tobacco Quitline Services (NTQLS): Tobacco Quitline Services have the potential to reach a large number of tobacco users with the sole objective to provide telephone-based information, advice, support, and referrals for tobacco cessation.
  • mCessation Programme: It is an initiative using mobile technology for tobacco cessation. India launched mCessation using text messages in 2016 as part of the government’s Digital India initiative.
Decline in Tobacco Consumption:
  • The prevalence of tobacco use has decreased by six percentage points from 34.6% in 2009-10 to 28.6% in 2016-17.
  • Under the National Health Policy 2017, India has set an ambitious target of reducing tobacco use by 30% by 2025.
How does the lack of tax increase impact health targets and government revenue?
  • Health: World Health Organization recommended a uniform tax burden of at least 75% for each tobacco product. But, the tax burden in India on bidis, cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco, on average, stands at 22%, 53%, and 64% in 2021. It might bring some current smokers to smoke more now and some non-smokers to start smoking. This might jeopardize India’s commitment to achieving 30% tobacco use prevalence reduction by 2025 as envisaged in the National Health Policy of 2017.
  • Revenue: Excise duty on tobacco is very low in India. The share of central excise duties including NCCD in the total tobacco taxes decreased from 54% to 8% for cigarettes, 17% to 1% for bidis, and 59% to 11% for smokeless tobacco products, on average, from 2017 (pre-GST) to 2021 (post-GST).
What should the government do?
Government should increase the excise tax of at least ₹1 per stick of bidis while aiming for a significant increase in the excise tax of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.
An increase in taxation can affect the affordability of tobacco products, which further led to reduced tobacco use prevalence. It will further help India to achieve sustainable development goals.

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