Health Minister J P Nadda on Monday termed the challenge of tobacco control as “formidable” and said there is need to take multi-sectoral action and integrated approaches to health goals, especially as the country is facing the dual burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases. He was speaking during the inauguration of the Seventh Session of the Conference of Parties (COP7) to World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which India is hosting for the first time.
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Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena gave a special address during the inaugural session of the conference.
Nadda said there are nearly 275 million current users in the country and close to one million lives are lost every year due to tobacco use, either directly or indirectly.
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He said the economic cost to India or the healthcare cost to treat tobacco-related diseases is a whopping USD 22 billion and the target of achieving relative reduction of tobacco use by 30 per cent is no longer a choice but a necessity.
“The challenges faced by India in the realm of tobacco control are formidable, both in their number and in their complexity. However, despite our vast complexity, substantial investments for implementation of WHO FCTC are slowly improving the situation,” he said at the conference where more than 1500 delegates from all over the world are taking part.
He said India has to go a long way in preventing millions of avoidable deaths resulting from the habit of tobacco use and there are many challenges like new products which are emerging and the existing products are profilerating locally and internationally to newer areas.
“The prevalence of tobacco use is still unacceptably high. Morbidity and mortality due to its use is also very high. There is a huge economic burden on people and governments due to adverse health consequences of tobacco use. Certain parts of the world, including India, have a myriad of tobacco products.
“We cannot do this alone. Along with national will and resources, we also need the strength of international collaboration to mitigate the rising burden of health, social and economic costs of tobacco,” Nadda said.
He said this is a landmark year for tobacco control activities as the country has successfully implemented, from April, large pictorial health warnings occupying 85 per cent of the principal display area of tobacco packs and on all forms of tobacco.
Terming WHO FCTC as India’s strongest tool to curb the emerging non-communicable diseases, Nadda said India cannot tackle these diseases only by making more hospitals, cancer institutes and producing more doctors and allied health professionals.
“Today, India and other developing countries in the south east Asian, African and Latin American regions face the dual burden of infectious diseases like malaria and TB, and emergent conditions like zika and dengue, along with non-communicable diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes etc.
“All countries are gearing up and making efforts to strengthen their health systems to tackle these challenges. For this to happen, we need multi-sectoral action along with integrated approaches to health programmes and health goals,” he said.
“We need to prevent the risk factors, tobacco being the biggest of them, since today’s risk factors are tomorrow’s diseases,” he said.
He said India is committed to strengthening non- communicable disease programmes and interventions and implementation of the WHO FCTC as an integral part of the post 2015 sustainable development goals.
“Tobacco use is detrimental to all aspects of life and grips users in the most productive years. We must reverse this tide. We must, for this purpose, target our young children, catch them young, and indoctrinate their minds against the harms of tobacco use,” he said.