Newly-appointed director general Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Dr Balram Bhargava has proposed that all medical colleges that do not have tobacco cessation clinics be derecognised. Bhargava is also likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to emphasise on the importance of taking up tobacco control at a scale similar to fighting tuberculosis.
“There are many measures that I have in mind — one of those is that medical colleges that do not have tobacco cessation clinics should be derecognised. I have taken this idea from a recent decision to do that for medical colleges that do not have drug resistant TB centres…There is also a need for higher taxations — not just on tobacco, but also sugar and trans fats. There is an urgent need to prevent NCDs,” Bhargava said.
“I am planning to raise these issues with the prime minister, I have sought an appointment with him. I will probably be meeting him next week.” The tobacco cessation clinic, he added, could even be a small set up with doctors from surgery, cardiology, psychiatry and dentistry.
He was speaking at a function in National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR) for the release of a report brought out by the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control and NICPR on smokeless tobacco policies across the world. The report recommends banning manufacture, selling and import of smokeless tobacco products as per a WHO framework.
Dr Bhargava, a professor of cardiology from AIIMS took over earlier this month as the director general of ICMR, which is the apex body for medical research across the country.
“It is a well-known fact that heart attacks happen in Indians ten years earlier. We see 40-year-old reporting with heart attacks, when there is no history of diabetes or hypertension. This is all because of tobacco use,” said Dr Bhargava, who described himself as a “passionate hater” of tobacco.
In May, India’s first tobacco testing laboratory is set to open at NICPR. The laboratory will be the first-of-its-kind in the government sector that will be equipped to detect and quantify tobacco content in products sold in the market, said NICPR director Dr Ravi Mehrotra.
The other such laboratories are in Netherlands and in Atlanta. NICPR is also now a global hub for smokeless tobacco research. The use of smokeless tobacco products such as pan masala, gutkha and khaini is rampant in India with 66% of global users in India.
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