Red-stained walls are a common sight in cities all over India, but that would soon not be the case in government offices at least. Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan in a letter to the chief secretaries of all states and union territories has asked to ensure that all government buildings and offices be made tobacco-free.
The letter states that the Union Ministry is willing to provide technical assistance to states for implementing this policy in order to protect public health. The initiative comes after the Ministry banned smoking and spitting tobacco in its own premises in Delhi and made it a strictly punishable offence.
The decision is being applauded by consumer forums. Ashim Sanyal, COO of Consumer VOICE told Northeast Now:
“Tobacco use is the leading single preventable cause of deaths worldwide…The second-hand smoke from cigarettes poses a risk to non-smokers, children and pregnant ladies as well. The decision will protect people from the menace of tobacco.”
Last year, the Uttar Pradesh government banned pan masala, ghutka or any kind of tobacco in all the government offices. The state government also banned the use of any form of tobacco at government schools colleges and government hospitals. In 2003, the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA) prohibited the consumption of tobacco in public places. The ban was extended nationwide in 2008 and the act was also amended to ban the sale of tobacco-related products within 100 yards of educational institutions.
According to Tobacco Atlas, almost 13% of all deaths in India in 2016 were caused by tobacco. Even though fewer people use smokeless tobacco on average in India than on average in medium-HDI countries, the use of smokeless tobacco indicates an ongoing public health challenge, including heightened levels of oral cancer. Despite a drop in the share of smokers, the number of tobacco-related deaths per day in India is 3,700, which are almost 154 per hour, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016-17. The economic cost of tobacco in India amounts to over Rs 1,800 crore, which includes direct costs related to healthcare expenditures and indirect costs related to lost productivity due to early mortality and morbidity.