Union Health Minister conferred the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award of contribution to global tobacco control

Mr J.P. Nadda, Union Health & Family Welfare Minister was conferred the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award at a national consultation held in New Delhi on prioritizing and accelerating tobacco control efforts for achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia presented the award to Mr Nadda.

The consultation was organized to commemorate the World No Tobacco Day (31 May 2017) by the WHO Country Office for India in collaboration with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) on 8 June 2017.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr J. P. Nadda says, “Tobacco is a prime driver of poverty and it affects the family as a whole, the community and the country and requires a multisectoral approach to control it. It has rightly been identified as a development issue. I am happy that tobacco users have reduced by 81 lakhs and youth consumption of tobacco sees marked decrease.”

In her address, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, “India’s commitment and drive is catalyzing real change in a country that is the world’s second largest consumer of tobacco products. The leadership shown by Mr Nadda is in large part responsible, and his work truly exceptional.”

The Regional Director urged that taxation of tobacco products should be simplified and increased as doing so will discourage the uptake and continued use of tobacco, and will also help recoup the cost it inflicts on all of society.

“All forms of direct and indirect tobacco advertising must end. In India, that means taking specific action to tackle the continued marketing of paan masala. No more should effective marketing herald addiction, disease and death,” she added.

Highlights of the GATS-2 survey were released at the consultation revealing many encouraging findings. The consultation also saw the launch of key policy documents: Smokeless Tobacco and Public Health in India, TB Tobacco collaborative Framework Document and the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) Training Module.

From GATS-1 (2009-10) to GATS 2 (2016-17), the prevalance of tobacco use has reduced by six percentage points. The number of tobacco users has reduced by about 81 lakh.

The prevalence of tobacco use among the young population aged 15-24 has reduced from 18.4% in GATS-1 to 12.4% in GATS-2, which is a 33% relative reduction.

The prevalence of tobacco use among minors aged 15-17 & adolescents aged 18-24 has a relative reduction of 54% and 28% respectively.

There is an increase one year in the mean age at initiation of tobacco use from 17.9 years in GATS-1 to 18.9 years in GATS-2

In his address, Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India highlighted that tobacco kills half of its users prematurely in their most productive age group and it impacts the economy at large. In India, it was estimated that the economy lost a staggering Rs 104 500 crores in 2011.

“Tobacco control is everybody’s business; every individual and family can contribute to fight tobacco,” he added.

Tobacco victims voiced their concerns and struggles on the occasion. The consultation also encouraged young participants to voice their opinions about how tobacco use adversely affects health of families and the nation.

The two-day consultation is aimed at identifying the socio-economic determinants and consequences of the tobacco consumption and vigorously pursue strategies and policies to reduce its impact on global and national development.

Amongst other stakeholders and dignitaries present on the occasion were Mr Faggan Singh Kulaste, Union Minister of State, MoHFW; Ms Anupriya Patel, Union Minister of State, MoHFW; Dr Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services, MoHFW; Mr Arun Panda, Additional Secretary and Mission Director, National Health Mission, MoHFW; officials from other ministries; NTCP focal points; senior officers from MoHFW; national and state consultants; academia; media; and civil society.