20 November 2016:
India aims to reduce tobacco consumption by 30 per cent in the next three years, but it also needs to quickly promote the farming of alternate crops by tobacco growers, whose exports annually bring in Rs 10,000 crore ($1.5 billion) .
The target India set at the just-concluded WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Convention of Parties (COP7) will be backed by various UN entities like the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that will help the country figure out the best alternate revenue sources for tobacco growers.
“Alternate crop farming cannot be immediately implemented. First of all, India aims to reduce the consumption of tobacco by 30 per cent and when this happens, the alternate crop farming for tobacco growers will be immediately implemented. This will be supported by the UN and various ministries like agriculture, environmental and health,” Amal Pusp, Director of the National Tobacco Control Programme, told IANS.
The convention — held here for the first time with delegations from nearly 180 countries — also saw India leading the move to prevent the intervention of the tobacco industries in the framing to anti-tobacco policies.
“We want to help the tobacco growers. The point is that tobacco industries are using farmers at the forefront for their own benefits. The tobacco supply chain has to be broken,” Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, head of the WHO FCTC convention secretariat, told IANS.
India — which ranks third globally in implementing the “85 percent pictorial warning” norm on cigarette packets — is also keen to draft laws to fix the tobacco industry’s liability for the harm caused by it products.
Reiterating it’s stand on curbing tobacco consumption in every age group, India was among the select countries that called for increased taxes on all forms of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes – and, if possible, ban them altogether.
The WHO FCTC, at the end of its six-day convention, urged the non-tobacco producing countries to resist the temptation to do so and urged that committees be formed in every member-nation to update at COP-8 in Geneva in 2018 the anti-tobacco progress made during India’s presidency.
From curbing the rising illicit trade, not just in India but the entire South Asian region, after the strengthening of anti-tobacco norms by the state governments, India was also at the forefront in implementing moves to curb over-endorsement and advertisements of tobacco products in the entertainment industry.
If implemented, this will see the WHO FCTC create national and sub-regional observatories to monitor tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS).
India’s stand was in accordance with Article 13 of the WHO FCTC that a comprehensive ban on TAPS would reduce the consumption of tobacco products. Each party shall, in accordance with its constitution or constitutional principles, undertake a comprehensive ban on TAPS, the Article says.
According to the Tobacco Institute of India, Indian tobacco, introduced by the Portuguese in the 17th century, is appreciated worldwide for its rich, full-bodied flavor and smoothness. India has an impressive and progressive profile in the global tobacco industry.
At 800 million kg, India is the third-largest tobacco producer in the world. The major exportable variety, flue cured virginia (FCV), is produced mainly in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka,which account for 297 million kgs. This has led to India emerging as a leading exporter of FCV tobacco globally.
(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at Rupesh.firstname.lastname@example.org)