The Tobacco Epidemic
One in every three Indian adults – over 274 million people – uses tobacco. Nearly half of tobacco users consume the cheap, locally-made hand-rolled cigarette called a bidi. Smokeless tobacco, also popular, is used by one in four adults. Half of adults and 27% of youth (aged 13-15) are exposed to second-hand smoke at home; 29% of adults and 40% of youth are exposed to it in public places.
1 million Indians die each year because of tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke, a number trending toward 1.5 million by 2020. Smoking currently costs India $1.2 million USD for the treatment of tobacco-related illness each year.
Policies in Place
India became a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005.
The primary national tobacco control law is the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA). COTPA granted certain authority to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, who has since passed over 15 Notifications which amend, clarify and expand COTPA. These national laws:
- Prohibit smoking in all public places and workplaces, but designated smoking areas are permitted in airports, hotels with 30 or more rooms, and restaurants with capacity to seat 30 or more. Many outdoor spaces, such as open auditoriums, stadiums, railway stations and bus stops are smokefree.
- Prohibit most forms of TAPS, but point of sale and sponsorship are allowed with some restrictions.
- Require pictorial and text health warnings that cover 40% of the front of packaging. Misleading terms such as "light" and "low-tar" are prohibited.
- Allow sub-national regulations that are stricter than the national law.
The Union's achievements
The Union worked to uphold advertising bans on chewing tobacco at international cricket matches in Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa in 2012. The advertisements – which were in Hindi and aimed at television audiences in India – first appeared on the boundary rope of an Australia v. India test in early 2012, despite Australia's comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising. The Union worked with government, sporting and tobacco control partners to have the advertisements, and similar adverts in South Africa and Sri Lanka, removed from the stadiums.
The Union, in collaboration with BI partners and civil society organisations in India, was instrumental in supporting the Indian Government to pass 85% coverage Graphic Health Warnings on cigarette packets, making these one of the largest GHWs in the world.
The Union's focus on strengthening the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) at central, state, district and sub-district level in the biennial period of 2013-2014 has paid dividends with government infrastructure reinforced in 5 states and up to 21 local jurisdictions implementing tobacco control measured.
The Union works across 25 states in India to support state governments, ministries, and NGOS for improved implementation of tobacco control policies. The Union is currently prioritising smoke-free policy development and enforcement in the priority states of Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Goa and Kerala. Policies regarding sub-national tobacco tax increases are also priorities in these states.