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Will smokers be more impacted by COVID-19? On ‘No Tobacco Day’ a GB report

31 May, 2020 23:40:21
Will smokers be more impacted by COVID-19? On ‘No Tobacco Day’ a GB report

As COVID-19 rages through India, doctors have often warned that just like patients with co-morbidity are in the high-risk group, so are the smokers whose lung capacity have been reduced thanks to smoking over the years. Infact the virus first attacks the respiratory system of patients and hence for those whose lungs and alveoli are already under stress thanks to smoking will also face trouble. Despite India’s constant fight against tobacco usage, it is still a country often targeted by tobacco companies to set up huge markets specially among the new generation of youths who wish to try out the e-cigarettes.

On World No Tobacco Day, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) advocates for the banning of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco product sales in low- and middle- income countries, which are home to more than 80 percent of the world’s smokers. It is believed that the tobacco industry is targeting a new generation of young people with cigarettes and novel tobacco products. The paper released by the Union, analyses scientific evidence documenting the health impact of novel nicotine products and cautions that governments need to be extra careful in the face of the commercial incentives driving novel tobacco product producers to hook new users and expand the nicotine market in their own countries.

“The vast majority of LMICs are still contending with very serious tobacco epidemics,” said Dr Gan Quan, Director of Tobacco Control at The Union. “Introducing new, highly addictive products into these environments will overwhelm governments, stress already overburdened health systems, and distract from urgent implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and related MPOWER measures.” E-cigarettes and HTPs are enormously lucrative businesses; the former was worth US $15 billion in 2018, and HTPs are expected to be worth nearly US $18 billion by 2021. In its 2019 report on the global tobacco epidemic, the WHO noted that there is “insufficient evidence to support the use of [e-cigarettes] as a population-level tobacco cessation intervention to help people quit conventional tobacco use” and also noted that these products are “undoubtedly harmful.”

E-cigarettes are undoubtedly injurious to health

Low- and middle- income countries like India have traditionally been a playground for big tobacco and are presently home to more than 80 percent of the world’s smokers. India has made tremendous progress in tobacco control in recent years. However, every year, more than 1.3 million Indians are killed by tobacco-caused disease. The tobacco industry is actively pursuing new strategies. Major global tobacco companies like British American Tobacco (BAT), Phillip Morris International and their domestic affiliates have introduced these technologies in India. However, the ban announced in September 2019 has curbed the ENDS trade, however it still does persist through illegal means.

Also read : Team including Bengali scientists to launch ‘Modified’ BCG vaccine to fight COVID-19

“Use of electronic cigarettes has increased rapidly across the countries of the region and globally” said Dr Rana J Singh, Deputy Regional Director for the South East Asia region at The Union.  Studies show that the vapour generated from electronic cigarettes has potential harmful toxins with long-term carcinogenic and respiratory function effects. Government of India has taken a historic step by enacting Prohibition of E-cigarette Act 2019 and thus protecting its youth from another onslaught of addiction. He further emphasized that policy makers from countries of the region should embrace the precautionary principal, which urges preventative action. For LMICs, that means e-cigarette and HTP sales bans.”

Electronic cigarettes and other new technologies that deliver nicotine are as dangerous and there is nothing safe about them.  Youth are being misled by an unscrupulous industry which wants children and youth to get addicted to nicotine for life. Electronic cigarettes are banned, yet there is illicit sale through websites and vendors across India. We urge central and state governments and agencies to take strong enforcement measures to ensure the ban effective.

Story Tag:
  • World No Tobacco Day

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