Tobacco is the bane of Modern Society and the million dollar question is : How do we overcome this?
If one were to ask me to name the single greatest health hazard for non communicable disease today; the answer without batting an eyelid is TOBACCO/TOBACCO and TOBACCO in any form (the commonest being in the smoked form)
You name any non communicable disease whether it is cancer of different kinds affecting the various parts of the body, heart attacks, heart strokes, peripheral vascular disease leading to amputation or, chronic lung disease and injury to an unborn foetus (in mothers who smoke) tobacco/smoking would have its name printed on it boldly.
There is no question that tobacco use has to curbed at all costs but the trillion dollar question is (it does cost the society as much in loss of productivity and treatment of tobacco related illness) how do we combat this serious menace?
Obviously there are many ways to skin a cat and one of the proposed measures is to depict boldly on the cover of cigarette packs gory pictures of tobacco related diseases .
Does this really help and this I think is a matter of debate because I believe many people addicted to this will continue to smoke inspite of these pictures and also this measure would not affect the large number of people who chew tobacco or smoke beedies which are equally harmful.
My perspective of preventing the tobacco menace is a multipronged strategy by going after both the users and providers of tobacco like what is being done in the war against drugs.
We should start of with a massive education program of awareness of the hazards of tobacco and especially target the young population in schools and colleges.
Have wellness centers and clinics at all health care centers not only to create awareness of the ills of tobacco but also help addicts kick the habit.
Punitive damages for public smoking including jail terms for repeat offenders equivalent to drunken driving
Heavy cess on tobacco manufacturers and vendors to finance this
Extreme measures that need to be considered are stop growing of tobacco and rehabilitate the tobacco farmers by helping them grow alternate crops (like what is being done for poppy growers).
I have always wondered why we have not considered introducing prohibition on tobacco use like what we have seen in great measure against alcohol esp during the election season.
I honestly believe that tobacco is as bad if not worse than recreational drug use and needs to be dealt with the same seriousness and vigor but Gory Pictures On The Cigarette Packs alone may not be the right answer and it should be a combination of all of the above.
I do hope in Our Life Time We Will experience the Luxury Of A Tobacco Free World for a safer cleaner world of the future.
Dr. H Sudarshan Ballal, MD, FRCP (London)
Chairman – Manipal Hospitals
Manipal Hospitals, 98, HAL Airport Road, Bangalore-560017
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the writer and not of the hospital.