[Answered] According to health experts, Tobacco use increases risk for severe covid-19 infection, complications, and death. Highlight the government interventions to discourage tobacco use and suggest some alternative policy measures.

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Write a brief note on the statement.

Write down some initiatives against tobacco use

Write some suggestions to further improve the scenario

In India, over 1.3 million deaths are attributable to tobacco use every year amounting to 3500 deaths per day. It is also called a silent killer and further increases the risk for severe covid-19 infection It has been estimated that the economic burden of diseases and deaths due to use of tobacco in India was as high as Rs. 1.77 lakh crores, amounting to approx. 1% of GDP.

Relationship between Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and Tobacco

  • As per WHO study, smokers face a 40-50% higher risk of developing severe disease deaths from Covid-19.
  • Tobacoo is associated with increased development of acute respiratory distress syndromecardiovascular diseases, lungs cancer, which is a key complication for severe cases of COVID-19 among people making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses.

Government interventions to discourage tobacco use:

  • Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA),2003: The act replaced the Cigarettes Act of 1975. It aims to provide smoke-free public places and also placed restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotion.
  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) to facilitate the effective implementation of the Tobacco Control Law and to bring greater awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco
  • India has also signed the tobacco control provisions under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
  • Promulgation of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Ordinance, 2019 prohibits Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement of e-Cigarettes.
  • mCessation Programme has been launched as part of the government’s Digital India initiative for using mobile technology for tobacco cessation.
  • Under National Health Policy, India has set a target of 30% reduction of tobacco users by 2025.

Despite all the efforts, there is a significant rise in ITC stocks where 85% of ITC profits are still derived from its cigarette segment.

Alternative policy measures

  • Taxation: The use of pricing measures and taxation is known to be one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing demand for tobacco products.
  • Involving NGOs and Pvt sector: These efforts should be coupled with collaboration with the private sector, civil society organisations, academia, to spread awareness and also suggest policy measures.
  • Education: Harmful effects of tobacco use should be incorporated in school curricula at various levels starting right from the primary school level.
  • Behavioral aspects: A combination of behavioural support and treatment approaches are most effective to help smokers to quit.
  • Harm reduction policies: As the majority of the steps to stop the usage of tobacco have failed, tobacco harm reduction (THR) policies should also be tried by the government. Under these policies, people are encouraged to use less harmful products instead of total abstinence.
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