Govt moots new taxes on tobacco

Govt moots new taxes on tobacco

Union Health Ministry is consulting ministries of Labour, Finance & Agriculture

Kicking the butt

The Union Health Ministry is consulting the Ministries of Labour, Finance and Agriculture to draft the new policy, which is at a preliminary stage. “An inter-ministerial team will be formed to look into the matter soon,” B K Prasad, Joint Secretary and in charge of the National Tobacco Control Cell in the Health Ministry, said at a World Health Organisation meeting on the Frame Work Convention on Tobacco Control here on Wednesday.

The FCTC is the world’s only public health treaty to which 166 countries are members. India—world’s second largest consumer and third largest producer of tobacco—ratified the treaty in 2004. The anti-tobacco Act, in fact, is a result of India’s commitment to the FCTC.

Addressing an FCTC meeting on alternate crops for tobacco, Union Minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi said the “tobacco lobby” used lack of alternative crop option to thwart many anti-tobacco initiatives.

Trivedi said unless alternative livelihood for tobacco farmers and beedi workers are found, the tobacco lobby would exploit these two stakeholders to stall many serious steps to curb the tobacco menace.

The Health Ministry is collaborating with the Central Tobacco Research Institute, Rajahmundhry to establish viable, sustainable, alternatives to tobacco crops. A pilot project has been initiated in six tobacco growing spots, including one in Karnataka, for identifying profitable alternative crops for scores of tobacco farmers.

Under the Rs 2.17-cr pilot scheme, potential of sugar cane, vegetables, garlic, maize, fruits, pepper, cotton, sweet potato, turmeric, onion, potato, garlic and mustard will be evaluated as alternate crop to tobacco. The government is also developing skills based vocational training for bidi rollers.

Nearly nine lakh Indians die every year due to tobacco-related diseases. As per the National Family Health Survey III, 2006, 57 per cent of males and 10.9 per cent females consume tobacco in some form or the other. The total economic cost of the three major tobacco-related diseases (cancer, lung and heart disease) due to tobacco use was Rs 30,833 cr in 2002-03.