Thursday, May 31, 2007

On World Anti-Tobacco Day

31st May is a good day to write something in the blog, for that would end the long summer drought of 'no posts' in the entire month. As I racked the brains and did a lot of hair splitting, found one topic of interest. For this, I thank Pallavi Aiyar for her article in The Hindu on the rising use of Tobacco in China. Yes, May 31st is World Anti-Tobacco Day.
Statistics point out that tobacco is one of the biggest cause of human deaths, though not an immediate basis. Still it has a long term effect, not only the life of the smokers, but also those who could be termed as passive smokers. Cigarrettes and Beedis form the major chunk of tobacco consumption. Under the WHO norms whcih many nations have signed and ratified, including India and China clearly states some measures to be undertaken t0 restrict their consumption. Under this comes, the ban of smoking in public places as well as puttting up pictures of people affected by smoking on the cigarette labels. In India, the Health ministry has already started working on these lines, with the the statutory warning of "Smoking Being injurious to Health" being showcased widely. Already the movies and tele series have been asked to ban smoking scenes within them and for those which have already come to the fore, warnings have asked to be displayed before their screenings. Also hefty charges and fines have been levied on the people who smoke in the public places. Various public awareness drives and campaigns have also been carried out by the Government and various other agencies as well as non-governmental groups to highlight the negative effects on human health due to tobacco consumption.
However, the ultimate question that Pallavi points out is regarding the Government's revenue from taxes on the cigarette companies vis-a-vis the health factor of the people. However, on a personal note, neither do I smoke nor do I endorse anyone else doing the same. At times I even go to the extent of asking the smokers to not do so, when I am in their midst and feel uncomfortable. However, I feel that imposing moral codes on people to make them quit smoking is to go the other extent. Though smoking has to be discouraged for people in their teens, I do feel that others are more mature and do know the consequences of tobacco consumption. Hence, there is no need impose sanctions on them as they can very well understand the gravity of the things. Also, there is a question of imposing blanket bans, as that would amount to closure of these companies and units in the long term, thereby causing unemployment for those working in them. Thus, the role of the State is critical here, as it needs to maintain a delicate balance. The ideal measure would be for the State to continue with its educational campaigns on this matter and allow the citizens to make the proper choice. On an individual level, the non-smokers could continue their efforts to make the smokers realize the ill-effects of smoking, thereby having a cascading effect on them and making them quit smoking altogether.

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