Three IITs to help government regulate tobacco industry

September 9th, 2008 - 7:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Anbumani RamadossNew Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) The central health ministry has roped in three Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to test tobacco products of their toxic contents and help the ministry in regulating the tobacco industry.“We have already received acceptance from IIT Guwahati, Chennai and Roorkee,” said Jagdish Kaur, chief medical officer, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

“We are setting up tobacco testing laboratories in these IITs, which will work as regional tobacco testing centres. Each laboratory will be set up with an investment of Rs.55 million,” Kaur told IANS.

“These laboratories will have smoke machines to simulate smoking and give details of toxic contains of cigarettes, bidis and other chewing tobacco products.”

Kaur said initially they would search for seven toxic elements like nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and arsenic.

K. Srinath Reddy, head of the Public Health Foundation of India and adviser to Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, said these IITs will send the toxic content test reports to the health ministry.

“The ministry will then ask the tobacco manufacturers to write the ingredients and percent of toxicity on their packets. This will be mandatory for tobacco companies,” Reddy said.

Binayak Prasad, director public health, in the health ministry said: “Since, IITs have competent authorities, it will be easier for the ministry to start the regional labs there only.”

“Besides, two more labs - one at Ahmedabad and another at Rajamundry in Andhra Pradesh are coming up. These five will work as regional hubs in regulating tobacco industries. These five centres are likely to be operational in another five-six months time,” Prasad told IANS.

A central lab is also proposed to come up in the national capital region of Delhi with an investment of Rs. 120 million.

“The capacity of the central lab will be double the capacity of regional hubs and help other south Asian countries to test their tobacco products,” Kaur added.

She, however, said that they are yet to find land for the central lab in NCR region and weighing the option of setting it up at an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) building in Noida.

India is currently home to over 250 million smokers. According to government estimates nearly 1 million people die of tobacco related diseases in the country every year.

While the revenue from tobacco industry is nearly Rs. 350 billion per year, the disease-treatment cost is little over this amount. The central government is set to ban smoking in public places from Oct 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

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