Azad, who inaugurated the 'International Conference on Public Health Priorities in the 21st Century: The Endgame for Tobacco', while addressing the gathering stated that India faces a unique challenge in its response to the tobacco burden.
"There are a myriad varieties of tobacco products, both smoking and smokeless forms which are widely used in India. Quoting the results of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (2009-10) he said, as per the survey, one in four or about 275 million Indians use tobacco in some form or the other," said Azad.
"Of the nearly 35 percent of Indian adults, who are current tobacco users, 21 percent used smokeless tobacco products like gutkha, zarda and khaini, which are chewed orally. Nearly 9 percent smoked and nearly 5 percent smoked as well as used smokeless tobacco," he added.
Azad said that in sheer numbers, India has the highest number of smokeless tobacco users in the world and tobacco causes over one million deaths in India annually.
"Also, India has the highest number of oral cancer cases in the world and 90 percent of these cases are attributable to smokeless tobacco use," he added.
Azad emphasized that India was one of the first countries to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Convention in February 2004.
"And, almost a year before that, at the national front, India had enacted and enforced its national tobacco control law - the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act in April 2003," he said.
The Health Minister said that the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) forms the cornerstone of the Government's response to curb the threat of tobacco use and provides a conducive environment for the effective enforcement of the Indian tobacco control law.
"NTCP is currently operational in 42 districts of the country and Government of India is working on a road map to integrate both NPCDCS and NTCP in order to strengthen our response to the overall NCD burden being faced by the country," he added.
Highlighting India's recent progress on prohibiting use, manufacture, sale and distribution of Gutkha in 33 out of the 35 States and Union Territories, Azad said that this a further concrete step towards addressing the oral cancer burden in the country and a definite step towards achieving Tobacco Endgame.
"Nearly 94 percent of India is covered under this ban and some States have extended the ban to cover other smokeless tobacco products under the landmark Food Safety and Standards Act, 2011," he mentioned.
Azad announced that former Indian cricket captain Rahul Dravid has agreed to being designated as the Health Ministry's Ambassador for tobacco control.
The popularity of this sport amongst Indians needs no elaboration with his advocacy, it will be able to catch the attention of a large number of sport loving people, both within the country and in the international diaspora, highlighting our tobacco control efforts around the world. A recorded message from
Dravid, who has been appointed as the brand ambassador for Tobacco control, was also played.
Azad said that India is keenly observing global developments around strong and innovative tobacco control policy measures elsewhere, such as Plain packaging of tobacco products adopted by Australia and Current policy debates on tobacco free future generations and Endgame objectives adopted by Finland and Norway in their National health programmes.
He was hopeful that the deliberations of this Conference will provide a strong fillip to multi-sectoral engagement of governments, inter-governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector in strengthening tobacco control policies across the globe and aid in paving the path for a tobacco-free future generation.
The International Conference on Public Health Priorities in the 21st Century: The Endgame for Tobacco,is commemorating 10 years of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the Indian tobacco control law - COTPA, simultaneously. The International Conference was attended by many senior officials of the Ministry, along with delegates from WHO and Public Health Foundation of India.
--ANI (Posted on 12-09-2013)