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Monday, 27 November, 2000, 12:39 GMT
Can South Asia stub out tobacco?
Around half-a-million people die each year in India from illnesses caused by tobacco. Hundreds of millions of people in South Asia are regular smokers.
More and more teenagers across the region are taking up the habit, and the laws that do exist to reduce the use of tobacco are seldom enforced by underpaid and overworked authorities.
Should more be done to educate people of the health risks of tobacco? Is it realistic to expect South Asian countries to turn down the big bucks of the international tobacco giants?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Most of the countries' major revenues come from tax on tobacco products and alcohol. Although laws prohibit smoking in public places or in government buildings none of the countries ban it at the grassroots level, because governments would lose a major source of revenue. Imposing strict laws would lead to a boom in the black market. To avoid this people should be educated and informed about the harms of smoking. Governments should also stop tobacco companies sponsoring major events.
It is disgraceful that tobacco companies who have been hounded out of the developed world, should now be concentrating on the underdeveloped countries for their profits. I see large numbers of smokers in China, India and East European countries, whereas I see fewer smokers in the US and the West.
Tobocco is gaining wide spread usage among the people in S Asia in various forms including the chewable form of tobacco that is a known carcinogen. Although governments have increased the tax every year on tobacco products, it has not stopped millions of youngsters becoming addicted to this bad habit. Unless a ceaseless wave of health propaganda is directed towards the users of tobacco, the road to death for its people is going to become shorter day by day.
Chirag Doshi, India/USA
Somehow for some anti-tobacco lobbies it seems it is ok to drink while sacrilegious to smoke. The fact is nobody has any business of moralising to smokers whether to smoke or not. Back off and mind your own business!
Steve Block, USA
Smoking is also quite a common habit in Bhutan.
Yet the government realising the bad effects of tobacco consumption has taken several steps to curb it. More than half the districts in Bhutan are tobacco-free now. Sale of tobacco products has been banned and this is having a positive impact on the people, more so because the ban has been enforced by the people themselves who agreed to ban it realising its bad repercussions. Hence what is needed to stub out tobacco in South Asia is a national approach and of course awareness is essential. We do have public health awareness campaigns too over the radio and in print media.
The key here is going to educate the people about the dangers of tobacco. Unless this is done no law can prevent this. What can Government do if a father wants to smoke in front of his kid and thereby influence his/her tender mind. Youth should take the lead in this sort of social programs.
The issue in South Asia has low priority at present just like it was in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a convenient and a reliable source of revenue from the addicts! Economics will always rule over welfare, be it in South Asia, Europe or USA.
Trung Canidate, USA
South Asia should take a firm stand against any big tobacco companies trying to hook the people
on cigarettes. The deadliness of the dangers of tobacco has been long recognized in the subcontinent. The founder Prophets of Sikhism strictly prohibited the use of tobacco among
their followers. I think a everyone can use this example and save their lives and their kids' lives.
Tobacco has existed from ancient times in one form or other. Cigarettes have just shifted the risk from mouth cancer to lungs. Though all countries were aware of the dangers the cigarettes pose to health, they were always hesitant to take any action due to economic factors involved in it. Even US geared up its action against tobacco industry, only when it became assured that it wouldn't prove to be detrimental factor to US economy. It is a sad thing that more and more teenagers especially in south east countries falling a prey to this evil largely due to peer influence, zeal to impersonate western style, and various other misconceptions. Unlike US, it is very hard to curb this menace in countries like India,
because foremost it brings huge revenue to India.
On contrary, the 'Babus' in the Indian government generally decide their own paycheck depending on the extent their conscience permits. If anything, they tend to overpay themselves and under perform their duties. Noted celebrities from sports and the film industry should be requested to voluntarily endorse the harmful elements relating to smoking via a documentary. And this should be integrated as a part of the physical education curriculum at schools. Children are most vulnerable prior to the age of eighteen. Nip it before adolescents come under peer pressure. An informed child is less vulnerable. The 'Babus' are a hopeless bunch. Enforcement is but a distant reality for present India.
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