40 percent of India’s health problems linked to smoking: Ramadoss

September 30th, 2008 - 11:48 am ICT by IANS  

Anbumani RamadossNew Delhi, Sep 30 (IANS) Forty percent of India’s health problems are linked to smoking, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss says, defending the stringent measures to ban smoking in public places from Oct 2.”According to a WHO survey, the (size of the) tobacco industry is Rs.35,000 crore (Rs.350 billion/$8 billion). Government as well as individual expenditure on preventing and treating tobacco-related health ailments as well as loss of production due to these diseases is Rs.36,000 crore (Rs.360 billion),” Ramadoss told IANS in an interview.

He also pointed out that of the five million people the world over who have health problems because of tobacco use, one million are Indians.

Ramadoss denied suggestions that he was playing the moral policeman due to the health ministry’s banning smoking in public places from Oct 2.

“I am not trying to play a moral policeman or guardian. I am just doing my job. As health minister it is my responsibility to create awareness in the general population and to save every youth from everything that can harm their health.

“What happens in India impacts global figures. One sixth of humanity lives in India. As many as 600 million people here are below 30 years of age. We consider them as the high-risk group when it comes to tobacco, alcohol, drugs use, HIV infection and junk food consumption. It is the responsibility of the government to highlight the ill effects of these to the naive, illiterate and the youngsters,” Ramadoss contended.

“If I, as health minister, can’t do it who can? We don’t want the young people to become a liability for our society,” he contended.

He also spoke of the resistance to his anti-smoking measures from the cigarette and bidi lobby.

“Surprisingly, also from politicians. The chief ministers of (West) Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh wrote to lobby against these measures. More than 80 Members of Parliament made a representation against the ban and pictorial warning,” Ramadoss said.

At the same time, he pointed out that India was obligated to imposing the measures because it was one of the 152 signatories to WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 2004.

He was also confident that smokers would be deterred by pictures of a skull or damaged lungs on a pack.

“Canada, Brazil and Singapore saw a three to five percent drop in smokers after such a measure. In the UK, 45,000 people quit smoking after smoking in public places was banned. Besides, the effect of pictorial warning on packs will be reviewed by a health ministry committee after one year.

Ramadoss also contended that the government would draw huge political capital from the anti-smoking measures.

“I feel there is going to be a huge gain for the Manmohan Singh government in the vote bank,” the minister said.

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