Chennai: “It is a shocking report that the number of smokers in Tamilnadu have increased by 4 per cent, whereas in other States, the count has gone down drastically,” says M Somasundaram, a liaison officer of NGO Consumers Association of India, Tamilnadu.
The recent GATS 2 (Global Adult Tobacco Survey), released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, shows that 20 per cent of adults in Tamilnadu consume tobacco in some form or the other. The State has shown a significant rise in tobacco consumption from 16.2 per cent in the last survey in 2009-10 to 20 per cent in the recent survey.
“This survey includes adults who involve in consuming paan, gutkha, smokeless tobacco and smoking tobacco. Also, the monthly expenditure for buying tobacco in the State has increased from Rs 986.2 crore to Rs 1,343.8 crore,” says Somasundaram.
WHAT IS THE REASON?
The officer says,”Lack of proper enforcement of rules is the sole reason for this alarming situation. For instance, there is a rule that no petty shops should sell cigarettes near schools. But this is not supervised properly. Many shops sell tobaccos near schools in TN. Another reason is awareness signs are not displayed properly. The government is also being lenient with smokers. Even today, if we visit Koyambedu bus stand, we can see many smokers. Those travelling by train continue to use restrooms as smoking place.”
MIGRANT LABOURERS LINK
“Gutkha habit is prevalent among migrant laborers all over the State. They use gutkha as it is the cheapest way of getting a high, compared to alcohol. The government should be also strict about selling cigarettes in loose. This will reduce tobacco consumption due to its cost,” he adds.
He points out,”A survey is the key to any alarming situations in society. The government should take GATS seriously and enforce laws strictly. Following this, the government should also stop funding tobacco growing and give them alternative work for a livelihood. Only when the government and NGOs join hands, awareness can be created among the people.”
“We create consumer awareness regarding tobacco usage. We were the first to protest against e-cigarette. We also undertook a survey of petty shops in all the districts. We submitted those reports to the government. No licence is required to sell tobacco unlike liquor. So, we request the State to bring in the concept of vendor licence,” Somasundaram lists the work of Consumers Association of India.
A press release from CAI states that ‘Each year an estimated seven million deaths are attributed to the use of tobacco. India is the third largest tobacco producing nation and second largest consumer of tobacco world-wide. Mortality due to tobacco in India is estimated to be upwards of 1.3 million.’
‘In India every third adult in the rural areas and every fifth adult in the urban areas uses tobacco in some form or the other. The survey revealed that 28.6 per cent of adults aged 15 and above in India currently use tobacco in some form. Among the adults, 24.9 per cent are daily tobacco-users and 3.7 per cent are occasional users,’ says the note.
“The ascent in tobacco consumption in Tamilnadu is an indicator that the government needs to strengthen tobacco control efforts and people need more awareness on the health and financial burden that tobacco use brings,” says Nirmala Desikan, chairperson of Consumers Association of India.