‘Tobacco lobbying in India undermining public health’

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: May 15, 2015 17:12 IST

Three medical experts have cautioned that there was ‘troubling evidence’ of the tobacco industry influencing governments in India and other countries in Asia, which is underming public health.

In a paper in the latest issue of the ‘British Medical Journal’, British experts Nicholas S Hopkinson Martin McKee, and K Srinath Reddy of the Public Health Foundation of India say that some governments in Asia were complicit in protecting the interests of the tobacco industry.

The paper titled ‘Tobacco industry lobbying undermines public health in Asia’ identifies India, Pakistan and Laos where the tobacco industry was reportedly targeting control policies.

It says: “The implementation of tobacco control measures is a political choice. Although tobacco control will improve the wellbeing of the populations that governments serve, the industry spares no attempt to deter, dilute, or delay effective measures for tobacco control, be it taxation or prominent pictorial health warnings”.

“There is troubling evidence that the tobacco industry is exerting undue influence in several Asian countries, in some cases with the complicity of governments, to thwart public health measures”.

The paper recalled that in October 2014 the Indian government had announced plans to mandate the use of pictorial health warnings covering 85% of tobacco product packaging, which was to come into effect from 1 April 2015.

“However, a committee of parliamentarians that had consulted tobacco industry lobbyists successfully recommended that these plans be suspended. Although tobacco is estimated to account for 40% of all cancers in Indian men, the committee chair, Dilip Gandhi, made the extraordinary assertion that no study in India had established that tobacco causes cancer”, the paper says.

It also noted that senior Indian tax officials were reportedly listed as participants in the 12th annual Asia Pacific tax forum, to be held in Delhi, sponsored by four of the global tobacco corporations.

“Understandably, these contacts have faced vigorous opposition from the Indian public health community”, the paper says.

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