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  Asia-Pacific
Andhra Pradesh Should Gear Up to Enforce Tobacco Control Policies
By Bobby Ramakant
Asia Correspondent
Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister

Thankfully, the commitment of Andhra Pradesh state-capital's medical and health officer, Ms. Jaya Kumari to enforce smoke-free policies and that of Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss is indeed unprecedented.

Smoking in public places will be banned from Oct. 2, 2008 in compliance with the rulings of The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003.

However a recent walk around in city of nawabs — Hyderabad — makes me wonder if the city is geared to enforce this public health policy. Walking around Abids - one of the most happening streets in Hyderabad, one can clearly see tobacco retail shops within 100 meters of educational institutions, people were smoking on the banks of the Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad when I went for morning walk, the auto-richshaw driver was smoking, and to top it all, while having dinner at a restaurant, the waiter approached me if I will like to have a hookah!

The Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) in compliance with court orders, is coming down heavily on hookah parlours to enforce smoke-free air policies. Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) has something to learn here!

Also while walking around in Golconda fort, I found quite a few instances where people were having a puff - however the city's Medical and Health officer Ms. Jaya Kumari says smoking will be banned from 2 October in monuments as well. With less than two weeks left to enforce the ban, I am wondering how this rapid transformation will be implemented?

The repeated delay, at times weakening, and postponing the implementation of public health policies in India, particularly the provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, mustn't occur again. With two weeks to go before India enforces ban on smoking in public places from 2 October 2008, and few more weeks to go before mandatory pictorial warnings on tobacco products from 30 November 2008 get enforced, it is high time to prepare ourselves to contribute effectively in the implementation of these health policies

At the launch of the 3rd edition of the "Global Tobacco Treaty Action Guide 2008: Protecting Against Tobacco Industry Interference " in Hyderabad on Saturday, 20 September 2008, it is clear that the tobacco giants have disqualified themselves from participating in the development of public health policy. Worldwide release of the Global Tobacco Treaty Action Guide is a centerpiece of this year's 9th International Week of Resistance (IWR) to Tobacco Transnationals (22-28 September 2008).

The Global Tobacco Treaty Action Guide 2008 is produced by Corporate Accountability International [which is in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO)], along with the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT).

For years the tobacco industry has operated with the express intention of subverting public health policies. If the tobacco giants were truly serious about saving lives, they would back off and let governments swiftly, fully implement the public health policies, including the national health policies and also the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – the first global corporate accountability and public health treaty. India, along with more than 150 countries, has ratified the global tobacco treaty (FCTC). The WHO estimates that broad implementation of the treaty could save 200 million lives by 2050.

In July 2007, at the second implementation and enforcement meeting on the FCTC, parties took the courageous step of initiating the development of guidelines on the implementation of Article 5.3 of the FCTC. These guidelines will help governments anticipate and thwart attempts by the vested commercial interests of the tobacco industry to undermine the implementation of the tobacco control policies.

Tobacco kills 5.4 million people around the world each year. Tobacco is a risk factor in six of the eight leading causes of death worldwide. The death toll is projected to rise to eight million a year by 2030, with 80 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries. If current trends are not reversed, tobacco will claim one billion lives this century.

Proven tobacco control measures required in Andhra Pradesh, as well as in rest of India, by the global tobacco treaty (FCTC), and also by the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, such as the ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, graphic and effective warning labels, strong tax policies and protection from exposure to tobacco smoke, will bring in the desired change. However, the enforcement of some of these policies in India got delayed repeatedly, owing to pressure from the tobacco-growers' associations and other such agencies. The various governmental and non-governmental stakeholders need to be vigilant so as to facilitate the enforcement of these policies and guard them against undue interference, said activists.



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Bobby Ramakant, who serves as The Seoul Times' Asia correspondent, is a member of NATT, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, and edits Weekly MONiTOR series, reporting violations of tobacco control policies as a senior public health and development journalist. He writes for newspapers in 11 countries. He is the recepient of World Health Organization (WHO)'s Award for the year 2008. He can be reached at bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)

 

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