Delivering the keynote address at the American Cancer Society's (ACS) 'Leadership Training Programme on Community based Cancer Control' in New Delhi today, the Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss said that a dedicated National Programme for Tobacco Control will be instituted under the 11th Five Year Plan. Under this programme, a National Regulatory Authority (NRA) to monitor and regulate the effective implementation of tobacco control laws will be set up. The other vital components of the programme include a State/District level programme and setting up of tobacco testing laboratories for content regulation. A national level public awareness campaign highlighting the ill effects of tobacco use will also be launched under this programme.
The function was also attended by Mr. Kevin Brady, Associate Vice-President and other Representatives of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation, Ms. Pat Felts, Dy. Chief Operating Officer, American Cancer Society (ACS), Dr. Shalini Vallabhan, Director, Asian Cancer Control Strategies, ACS and other Representatives of ACS, Ms. Stuti Kacker, Director, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Representatives of GE Healthcare, John and Editha Kapoor Charitable Foundation and Ms. Bhavani Thyagarajan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
Following is the summary of the Minister's speech:
In India more than 40 per cent of cancer cases are caused due to tobacco use. The relationship between oral cancer and tobacco can be assessed from the WHO estimates according to which 91 per cent of oral cancers in South-East Asia are directly attributable to the use of tobacco. In view of the high prevalence of oral cancers and other cancers due to tobacco use my ministry has taken up very strong initiatives for tobacco control. India has been a forerunner in the fight against the tobacco epidemic which claims over 2000 lives in my country every day. In order to curb this epidemic, we have enacted comprehensive tobacco control legislation. Most of these provisions under this legislation, like ban on smoking in public places, prohibition on sale to minors and ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship have been notified.
In order to prevent easy access of tobacco products to youth, the Government of India have gone a step ahead and prohibited sale of tobacco products around educational institutions. A prohibition on sale of tobacco products through vending machines, ban on sale of tobacco products by minors and a ban on visible stacking of tobacco products at the point of sale has also been proposed through an amendment to the rules to restrict youth access. We have also moved for a ban on display of tobacco products or their use in movies and television programs in India. This announcement of my Ministry of Health & Family Welfare faced immense opposition from various fronts. However, we are firm on this stand and is committed in ensuring that films and television do not become a medium for promoting tobacco products to the vulnerable youth audience.
India was one of the first countries to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in February 2004. In recognition of its exemplary leadership role in anti-tobacco advocacy, my Ministry has been conferred the prestigious Luther L Terry Award in July 2006 by American Cancer Society.
Tobacco control is a multi- sectoral issue and in order to ensure effective coordination among stakeholders for effective tobacco control, we have also constituted a multi-sectoral task force on tobacco control, which includes representatives from various Ministries/Departments and civil society groups.
In recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of tobacco control, we have instituted the 'Tumbakoo Virodh Puraskar' which will be conferred in four categories viz. individual/Institutions/civil society organizations/state governments on 31st May World No Tobacco Day every year.
From 1st June 2007 onwards specified pictorial health warning will be displayed on all tobacco product packs. Many of the provisions of the tobacco control rules have been challenged in the court and there is a lot of opposition from tobacco growers but we are going to steadfastly advance the tobacco control agenda in India to save the lives of lakhs of poor people in the country.
We must envisage the cities of Delhi and Mumbai going smoke-free by 2009... as India now has the honour of hosting the 2009 WCTOH Conference in February 2009 in Mumbai.
The Ministry of Health and Family welfare have initiated the process of establishing a National Programme for Tobacco Control to ensure availability of adequate resources for implementation of the national legislation and WHO FCTC. Setting up of a National Regulatory Authority for monitoring the enforcement efforts is also proposed. My Ministry is actively advocating with other stakeholder ministries for implementing effective tobacco control taxation and pricing policies.
I take this opportunity to appreciate the role played by the American Cancer Society (ACS) in promoting community-based activities dedicated in fight against cancer. It is my firm belief that the proposed initiative in leadership training for community based cancer control will go a long way in building the capacity for cancer prevention and control. The views shared by the leading experts and the participants will provide us valuable inputs so that we can intensify our fight against tobacco and cancer.