Tobacco Consumption in India: Rules and Regulations

India is one of the largest producers and consumers of tobacco products. But India is curbing down the use of tobacco. The decline in consumption of tobacco in the past decades clearly indicates that the Government is serious about the use of tobacco.

Tobacco Consumption in India Rules and Regulations
Percentage distribution of current tobacco users by type of tobacco use and gender among adults aged 15 years and above in select member countries of the South East Asia Region- Image by Indian Journal of Public Health

Tobacco is grown in more than 125 countries. After China and Brazil, India is the second largest producer of tobacco in the world with an annual production of about 800 million Kgs. In India, Tobacco is consumed in two forms: Smokeless and Smoke form. Approximately 400 hundred years ago tobacco was introduced in India by the Portuguese Traders. In India, smokeless tobacco is consumed in the form of Paan Masala, chewing tobacco whereas Beedi, Cigarette, and Hookas are the consumed in smoke form. The most commonly used tobacco products are khaini (a type of smokeless tobacco) 85 million users and bidi (hand rolled cigarette) 67 million users. The excise duty on tobacco and tobacco related products make up to Rs 20,000 crores of earning in India.

The national average for tobacco consumption, according to the National Family Health Survey of 2015-16(NFHS-4) is 44.5% men and 6.8% women consume tobacco or tobacco related products. NFHS-3(2003-04) reported that the national average for tobacco consumption among men and women was 57% and 10.8% respectively. Both these surveys suggest that there has been a decline in the consumption of tobacco and tobacco related products in India.

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India is a home to 12% of the world smokers and more than 1 million people die each year due to tobacco consumption in India. India is the third largest producer and second largest consumer of tobacco and tobacco products. This means that India is one of the major stakeholders in global tobacco consumption and production. At the same time, India has played a major role in tobacco control. The growing evidence of dangerous and harmful consumption of tobacco had lead GoI to implement and enact rules and regulations for tobacco control.

The roadmap to control the consumption of tobacco in India was implemented in 1975 under Cigarettes (Regulations of Production, Supply, and Distribution) Act. This act made the statutory warning “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health.” mandatory displayed to all cigarette packaging. Under the Prevention and Control of Pollution Act of 1981 and Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, it was illegal to smoke or spit in the public vehicle.The Cinematograph Act of 1952 was amended by GoI in 1992 to ban all the scenes that promote consumption of tobacco in any form.

The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply, and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA) is the principal law governing tobacco control in India. This act prohibited the sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 18. Tobacco companies are prohibited from advertising and sponsoring cultural or sports events. India ratified the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004 and implemented the national tobacco control law in the same year. FCTC core motive is to reduce the demand and supply of the tobacco. Also, it refuses to treat tobacco corporations as “stakeholders” in public health policy. The FCTC pointed on increasing the taxes on tobacco whereas COTPA did not mention any kind of taxes on tobacco. COTPA aimed at regulating the nicotine and tar content of the tobacco products. The FCTC talks about the comprehensive banning of any kinds of tobacco advertisements, sponsorship. promotion and cross-border advertisement. The rules regarding COTPA and Cable TV Network Rules and regulations provide a ban on direct or indirect tobacco advertisements. Whereas, the rules regarding the depiction of tobacco use in a movie is sub-judice.

In order to curb down the tobacco consumption and production, the government of India launched National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) in 2008. It was an initiative from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The law aims to bring awareness about the harmful effect of tobacco and to control tobacco consumptions and decrease the death caused by it.

The National Health Policy of 2017 has set the target for relative reduction in the prevalence of tobacco use by 15% by 2020 and30% by 2020. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey(GATS) compared its data from 2009-10 to 2016-17 and found that tobacco use in India has fallen down from 34.1% to 28.6%.  Tobacco is a major health challenge in India, the government of India has well implemented and enacted the laws to control the tobacco consumptions and production. The decline in consumption of tobacco clearly indicates that the Government is serious about the use of tobacco. Not only on the national level, the NTCP is working on the state level as well as district level in order to decrease the consumption of tobacco. Furthermore, the taxes on the tobacco products should be raised and awareness programs for anti-tobacco use should be held regularly.