A narrow lane leads us to a poorly lit small dingy room of a four storage building in the suburbs of Delhi. Veer Prakash is lying in a cot coughing on and off. His wife Lila Devi dusts off the two small tools in the corner and arranges the same for us to sit.
“His cough has aggravated with time, the medicines are costly. It is difficult to hospitalise him but we now feel that, it is very much necessary, but where will the money come from,” laments Lila Devi who somehow manages to feed the family of five by doing odd jobs after she is through with her household chores.
Veer Prakash’s cough has become chronic, he is a chain smoker, he smokes bidi, a form of cheap cigarette which is made by wrapping raw tobacco with tendu or temburni leaf (the plant is native to Asia only) and is also an alcoholic. During previous visit to the doctors, he was warned against smoking. But addiction has won over the will power of the man.
Persistent cough and poor health has limited his movement till the four walls and to the nearby lanes at times. He has become incapable of earning any penny.
In such a situation, it’s not only the man of the house but all the family members have fallen prey to the uncalled for condition as they are passive smokers.
According to a data shared by Dr Tara Singh Bam of the Union during a webinar arranged by Citizens News Service on the 24th of May Tobacco kills 8 million people across the Globe in a year.
About 800 million adult men worldwide smoke cigarette, while among the women also, the number have risen considerably with 200 million adding to the smokers community.
The sufferings of Veer Prakash and his family is just a single example. There are many who undergo similar shattering life because of tobacco consumption or inhalation.
It has also been seen that the number of smokers are more among the low income group people than those earning a decent amount for their livelihood.
With the tobacco consumption contributing significantly to the deteriorating global health scenario the World Health Organisation came up with the first international treaty – Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on 21st May 2003, which came into force by 27th February 2005. Since then it has become one of the widely embraced treaties in the history of the United Nations.
While the guidelines according to the treaty are in place, the commitments are also there, but the action is slow which is adding to the concerns.
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO
In India though a number of measures have been taken to curb smoking in accordance to the treaty with various kinds of pictorial warnings in cigarette packets, the impact is miniscule in India.
“Yes, I do see the warnings in the packet, it is disturbing, but I am unable to give up smoking,” says Ashish, a 30 year old software developer.
India ranks second amongst the tobacco consuming countries in the globe the first being China. Tobacco is used in various forms in India, either as bidis or as cigarettes or in hookahs a traditional way of smoking. It is also used a Gutkhas and panmasala and the youths including teenagers are catching fast in such unhealthy habit.
The people of North-eastern India consume tobacco in the most peculiar way. Most of the people chew the tobacco leaf with a kind of leaf locally called paan and betel nut with slaked lime, while there are many others who just fold the tobacco leaf and keep it in their mouth for long hours to derive a high.
World Health Organisation has recently came up with the idea favouring plain packaging on the cover of tobacco products with only pictorial warning and no mention of any brands, which had already been tried in Australia.
The result was very good there. The numbers of people refraining from buying such products were positive in Nepal too.
The overall health status in these countries were overwhelming.
Tobacco use is responsible for a number of chronic diseases like cancer, diseases of the lungs, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory diseases.
While there is a need to curb the availability of tobacco and tobacco products abundantly and easily available in the market, there is also a need to raise awareness on this issue among the smokers and young adolescents so that they stay away from such products which is detrimental for health.