Saturday 13 July 2024

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NOTE flays foreign stakes in tobacco industry

 

IThe Bharatiya Janata Party's decision to allow cent per cent foreign investment in tobacco industry in India has been condemned by the National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication, while demanding immediate revocation of two such "harmful" decisions.

In a letter written to prime minister Atel Bihari Vajpayee, NOTE chairman Dr Sharad Vaidya describes BJP's tobacco promotion policy paradoxical to its health improvisation programme, by sidelining the WHO guidelines in this regard.

The industry ministry has come under fire for clearing a proposal to allow Indian Tobacco Corporation to triple the capacity of its Kidderpore plant in Calcutta from 4.8 billion to 12.25 billion cigarettes.

Similarly, the government has allowed cent per cent FDI in India for the UK-based Rothmans of Pall Mall International Ltd to set up a new plant worth $ 150 million. "Tobacco, whether Swadeshi or Videshi, is equally poisonous", states Dr Vaidya.

He has also brought to Vajpayee's notice the WHO figures, as per which one person dies every 40 seconds in India due to tobacco consumption. It piles up to 2200 deaths per day and over eight lakh deaths per year, while the tobacco is used by 200 million men and 45 million women.

Even the tobacco-related diseases in the country, Dr Vaidya quotes, include four lakh cancer cases, 1.3 million cases of coronary artery disease and seven million cases of chronic obstructive lung diseases. Over 60 per cent of heart patients below 40 years are smokers, he adds.

With this rate, states Dr Vaidya, around 10 million people are expected to die of tobacco-related diseases every year by 2020 in the developing countries. One third of it would be in India alone, he observes, while reiterating the need to discourage tobacco consumption in the country.

The NOTE is thus planning year-long programme of anti-tobacco educational campaign for South East Asia Region countries from 31 May 1999 to 31 May 2000. One such pilot programme has already been launched in Pune on 14 August while Goa would launch it on 11 October. It would be then also launched in Bangalaore and Indore.


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