As an oncologist, I find a ban on tobacco products the only sustainable solution to this ghastly health hazard that claims more than 1.3 million people every year in India. As oncologists, our ultimate goal is to ensure the health and well-being of the society at large. The best way to ensure the health of our society is to prevent cancer, i.e., not have the disease at all. Almost 30 to 35 percent of cancers can be prevented by simply eradicating tobacco.
Even today, many films equate smoking with machoness. A statutory warning at the bottom of the screen does little to dissuade the vulnerable populations, especially the youth, from aping their screen heroes. Price hike is not a deterrant either for these die-hard fans. Only a statutory ban on tobacco at the top of the nation’s agenda can help break the vicious cycle.
However, the society as a whole needs to come together to get rid of the tobacco menace. One way of doing this is of course to urge people to stop using tobacco. This is a critical need no doubt, but the more conclusive way is to attack the root cause and stop the production of tobacco.
To achieve the second goal, we need to address the concerns of farmers and the tobacco industry and convince them to join the fight against tobacco. Our fight against the big business of tobacco is far from easy, given the counter-forces at work. But as oncologists, we will continue to challenge the lobbies and vested interests in the single-minded focus on tobacco eradication.
The farmers’ immediate concern is about ensuing their livelihood. Towards this effect, HCG is successfully steering an alternate farming project in Hunsur, which is a tobacco belt in Karnataka. We have got positive response from the farmers with some among them even reporting increase in revenues after having shifted from tobacco to sandalwood farming. The transformation has had a very positive effect on the health and well-being of the community at large. Having said that, the tobacco industry also needs to explore alternative ways of revenue generation by venturing into new businesses and shunning the production of tobacco, a crop which is a confirmed health hazard.
In a tobacco-free world, we must ensure that all stakeholders of the socoety are healthy and happy. While citizens will obviously be healthy and happy by keeping cancer at bay, farmers and industrialists need to be encouraged to take on alternative crops and businesses to ensure that their revenues are not adveresly affected. If the interests of all the key stakeholders will be taken care of, the government and the political parties will automatically happy as their anti-tobacco measures will positively impact their election outcomes.
In a day, when you don't come across any problems - you can be sure that you are travelling in a wrong path.