Shram, a self-help a group with large number of doctors and professionals, working in the field of health and education to build awareness campaigns against tobacco and alcohol, today appeals to Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health & Family Welfare and Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Finance to introduce uniform taxation on smokeless and other non-virginia tobacco products.
Shram also demands for bringing in proper regulation on sale of these smokeless other non-virginia tobacco products as this is manufactured by industry which is highly unorganized, evade taxes and forms more than 90% of total tobacco consumption in India. The measures will not only help bring in revenue to the government in excess of Rs 40,000 crores but also help in reducing health burden of tobacco on youth and vulnerable citizens of our country.
According to a study published in BMC Medicine, India accounts for 70% of the deaths globally caused due to chewing of smokeless tobacco which is widely available in the form of chewing tobacco, gutka, pan masala variants, zarda etc. These products are consumed by the poorer section in India due to their affordability and accessibility in the absence of any regulations and taxation. Failure to bring them under the ambit of a uniform tax structure defeats the purpose of a tobacco control programme. Bringing in appropriate regulations and ensuring that all smokeless and non-virginia tobacco is taxed will not only fetch additional revenues to the government but will also reduce its consumption.
Appealing for introducing a regulatory framework for trading of smokeless tobacco, Dr. Mukul Bajpai of Shram said, “The debilitating state of the smokeless tobacco sector demands a regulatory structure akin to that in place for other tobacco products. Smokeless tobacco products and its various forms which make up 90% of the tobacco consumed in India needs to have uniform taxation. This largely unorganized and unregulated sector sees consumers of all age groups with the average age of tobacco consumers being as early as 17.4 years, according to Global Adult Tobacco Survey. Failure to tax smokeless tobacco and its forms uniformly defeats the purpose of the tobacco control programme. We humbly appeal to you to regulate the unorganized manufacturing, distribution and sale of smokeless and other non-Virginia tobacco in India to curtail its widespread consumption and bring it under a uniform taxation structure.”
Dr Indramani Pandey of Shram said, “In spite of the adoption of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and the implementation of stringent regulation of Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) these products are consumed by the poorer section of society with impunity due to their affordability and accessibility in the absence of any regulations. We understand that the problems of SLT are complicated by the complex trade structure and the myriad ways in which they are manufactured and consumed but failure to bring them under the ambit of a uniform tax structure defeats the purpose of a tobacco control program.”
In conclusion, we appeal to the Government of India to introduce measures that curtails the widespread of smokeless and other non-virginia tobacco products as this will not only go long way in protecting health of citizens but will also establish India’s commitment, internationally in area of tobacco control.