Tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, globally. India now has 12.1 million women smokers and falls only behind the United States, studies suggest. While an average male smokes 6.1 cigarettes a day, the same rate for an average woman is 7. By 2020, there will be 1.5 million deaths from smoking in India.
According to WHO, unless we act now, the epidemic will kill over 8 million people globally every year by 2030. More than 80 per cent of these preventable deaths would occur in low- and middle-income countries, it says in a press release.
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide, nicotine and cyanide. Tobacco causes long-term damage to the lungs, brain and blood of an unborn child and can cause pregnancy emergencies in the mothers by reducing the amount of essential oxygen and nutrients that an unborn baby needs for healthy physical and mental development.
Countries are constantly defining ways to curb tobacco consumption. Tax and price policies are widely recognized as most effective for reducing demand for and consumption of tobacco products. These measures together with strong pictorial warnings have brought substantial health care gains.
However, illicit trade undermines tobacco control policy efforts and facilitates increased uptake of tobacco by youth and adults from low-income groups by making tobacco products more affordable and accessible, particularly to those from low-income groups. And because these products are not subject to legal restrictions and effective health regulations aimed at curbing tobacco use, such as pictorial warnings or banning sales to minors, this is fuelling the tobacco epidemic.
“In the South-East Asia Region, many countries have porous borders that provide easy opportunity for the smuggling of tobacco products. All South-East Asian countries have enacted stringent laws to control tobacco consumption – both on pricing and sale of tobacco products in-country as well as against import of foreign brands – and despite these efforts, there is still a thriving trade in smuggled tobacco products,” says Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
In a bid to respond to growing illegal trade in tobacco products and to make a consolidated effort to put a break in this cycle of illegal transactions, The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco products was developed, she adds. This international treaty was negotiated by the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and was adopted by them in November 2012.
Further, WHO has urged all Member States to speed up their process of ratifying or acceding to the Protocol. Ratification of the Protocol is necessary to respond to the financial, legal and health impacts of illicit trade in tobacco products, the release adds.