As many as eight states including Punjab, Himachal, Haryana, Sikkim, Karnataka, Chandigarh, Bihar and Kerala joined hands to stop Tobacco Industry Interference in formulation & implementation of public health policies. A “Roundtable consultation on Implementation of FCTC Article 5.3 – Stopping Tobacco Industry Interference in Tobacco control” for policy makers, programme managers and tobacco control expert from the various states, civil society and public health experts was organized by International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases(The Union) on 23-24th September 2015 at Chandigarh under Chairmanship of Health Minister, Punjab.
The consultation was attended by Health Ministers of Karnataka Mr.U.T.Khader, Himachal Pradesh Health Minister Shri Kaul Singh Thakur, government and NGO officials from eight states viz Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Haryana, Chandigarh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Dr. Rana J Singh, Sr. Technical Advisor with the Union welcomed the participants and shared that the objective of this consultation are to understand the ways of tobacco industry interference in tobacco control programme & to formulate a comprehensive policy to strengthen the adherence to Article 5.3 of FCTC Article to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
Mr. U. T. Khader, Karnataka Health Minister shared many multi-departmental actions the state has initiated for tobacco control in the state. He informed that as there is no use of any law without proper implementation, Tobacco control programme is being monitored by Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary Health through review of monthly reports submitted by District administration. Further the state has created a web based real time reporting system. Further to deal with the livelihood challenge of tobacco formers, state health department is working with department of horticulture, agriculture and welfare board to cut down the annual tobacco production volume by 10% per year. The state is also taking steps for prohibition of hooka bars in Karnataka.
Mr. Kaul Singh Thakur, Himachal Health Minister shared that tobacco is major risk factor of NCDs and considering that the state has considered tobacco control as its top priority. He informed that the state has proposed to ban sale of loose cigarette and to enforce licensing provisions for sale of any tobacco product in the state. Further he shared the concerns related to inter-state illicit trade of tobacco products and reiterated the need of coordinated efforts of neighbouring states for uniform tax policy for tobacco products.
Mr. Surjeet Kumar Jiyani, Health Minister, Punjab reiterated that we have been implementing the Cigarettes and other tobacco products act in letter and spirit, for which we have been awarded WHO WNTD award for 2015. He also said that Govt. of Punjab at various levels have been approached by Representatives of Tobacco Industry for easing implementation of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003 and withdrawing certain notifications to tackle Tobacco/Nicotine menace. He also said that Punjab Govt. has constituted an Empowered Committee to implement Article 5.3 of WHO FCTC in order to deal with any kind of interference by Tobacco Industry in implementation of Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003/Ban on flavored or scented Tobacco under Food Safety & Standards Act of India/ Declaration of Electronic Cigarettes (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) as illegal & for considering the representations by Tobacco Industry.
Ms.Vini Mahajan, Principal Secretary, Health said that all kinds of chewable tobacco and sale of loose cigarettes is banned in Punjab and license of a commercial establishment can be cancelled in case of violation of Tobacco Control Act. She also said that there are many poisonous chemicals in tobacco due to which about 2200 people are killed daily in India. So it is very important to curb this menace. She appealed to common people to help Government in this endeavour. She appreciated the efforts of The Union in organizing a roundtable consultation for implementation of FCTC Article 5.3. She said that Punjab is the only State which has notified an empowered committee to deal with tobacco industry interference .All speakers attending the Round Table Consultations emphasised on the need to have more stringent laws enacted to check tobacco abuse in the larger public interest.