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Over 1,000 Tobacco Growers and Retailers Stage Protest in Delhi outside WHO Office

The protestors comprised tobacco growers and retailers from states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, among others

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Representational image. Flickr

New Delhi, October 27, 2016: Over a thousand tobacco growers and retailers on Thursday staged a protest outside the Health Ministry and South Asian Office of the World Health Organisation here.

The farmers were upset as they have been denied participation in the upcoming (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Conference of Parties (FCTC COP7), scheduled to be hosted by India this year in Noida from November 7-12.

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The protestors comprised tobacco growers and retailers from states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, among others.

They have urged the government to boycott the WHO conference as it is likely to adversely affect the tobacco farming sector that contributes over Rs 10,000 crore to the government’s revenue annually.

According to them, if they are not allowed to participate, core issues such as increasing counterfeit bidi trade in the country after the implementation of 85 per cent pictorial warning will go ignored.

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Also, they won’t get a chance to discuss with the government for the alternate crop, as the stricter government norms against tobacco have dealt a heavy economic loss to them.

“We call upon the government, in its capacity as hosts to the upcoming FCTC conference, to uphold Indian Tobacco Farmers respect and the country’s democracy and boycott the conference,” B.V. Javare Gowda, President, Federation of All India Farmers Association (FAIFA), told IANS.

As a representative of the tobacco farmers in India, FAIFA has applied to the WHO FCTC secretariat seeking observer status in the FCTC COP7.

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When contacted on the issue, WHO told IANS that FCTC is an independent body and the decision to let anyone participate in the conference is up to them.

Also, according to the FCTC and its guidelines, no country should have delegation members linked to the tobacco industry.

The nation’s main cigarette industry body, the Tobacco Institute of India (TII), and farmer groups wrote to the Agriculture Ministry demanding that their views should be presented in the WHO conference. (IANS)

  • Vinny Gracchus

    The FCTC is an antidemocratic, totalitarian sham. It suppresses dissent and eschews transparency and takes funding from pharmaceutical interests that compromise their objectivity. The FCTC should be dismantled to correct their covert racketeering.

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Tobacco Epidemic: WHO Urges Nations to Implement Anti-Tobacco Measures

While this is progress, it is seen as far too little to stop the global tobacco epidemic that each year prematurely kills more than eight million people

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FILE - A man has his lunch behind a poster demarcating a No-Smoking zone in Singapore. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging nations to implement a series of cost-effective, anti-tobacco measures it says will help their populations quit smoking. A new WHO report found that progress in combating the tobacco epidemic and in reducing demand is being made, but not enough.

A survey found 36 countries have introduced one or more measures aimed at helping people quit smoking. Only Turkey and Brazil have implemented all of WHO’s recommended anti-tobacco measures. These include graphic images on cigarette packages warning of the dangers of smoking, banning tobacco advertising and promotion, and raising taxes on tobacco products.

While this is progress, it is seen as far too little to stop the global tobacco epidemic that each year prematurely kills more than eight million people, 80 percent of them in developing countries.

Program manager of WHO’s tobacco control unit, Vinayak Prasad, accuses the tobacco industry of being devious and finding new ways to hinder progress. He said the industry is reinventing itself in hopes of shedding its bad reputation and regaining legitimacy.

anti-tobacco measures
While this is progress, it is seen as far too little to stop the global tobacco epidemic that each year prematurely kills more than eight million people. Pixabay

“So, that is one of the reasons that many countries are finding it difficult to make progress because the industry has gone into creating new and novel products and pushing the governments to have less regulatory compliances,” he said. “And, that is a problem in all regions of the world.”

Prasad said the tobacco industry has come up with several smoking alternatives it claims are less dangerous than cigarettes. However, he noted the new heated tobacco products are the same as cigarettes, except they do not emit any smoke. He said electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco but do have nicotine — and there is no evidence that e-cigarettes help people quit.

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“The evidence in the U.S., for example, is that they were liberal to open the market for electronic cigarettes for almost like seven, eight years,” he said. “In one stroke, they have seen an increase in youth tobacco in the last three years; where the youth is starting to get to say, ‘Oh, this is safer, this is nice. Let us take it and then move on to tobacco.’ So, it is also a gateway for young people.”

The World Health Organization warns tobacco has a huge health and economic cost. It says cigarettes are the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, cancers and respiratory diseases. The agency says the cost to the world economy is $1.4 trillion or nearly two percent of global Gross Domestic Product. (VOA)