AAP Bans Tobacco in Delhi. Music to our ears!
We have discussed about this over days and weeks, sitting in our college corridors, walking on the road, in class. Every time a debate on the usefulness of healthcare research comes up, we would recall what Dr. Shakthi Vijayan, our senior and one of the people who taught me the true essence of naturopathy who is currently finishing his MD in Clinical Naturopathy from SDMCNYS (SDM College of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences, Ujire), asks – “Is tobacco bad for health? Duh. Why, then, has just one country in the world banned tobacco and its products? Even after decades of research that has successively and successfully proved that cigarettes and other tobacco products cause cancer, heart disease, strokes and many other diseases, no more than single government has taken the step to ban tobacco and stop its citizens from dying an early death. Of what use is research, if money and lobbying prevents it from being implemented?”
Well, Dr. Shakthi, you’ll be happy to know, the Kejriwal government has brought into force blanket ban on sale, purchase, storage and manufacturing of all chewable tobacco products, including gutkha, paan masala, etc., and is planning to run large scale campaigns throughout Delhi to educate the people about the harmful effects of tobacco! Kudos to them!
This isn’t the first time something like this is being attempted. You may be surprised to know, in modern times, a tobacco ban was brought into effect first by the Nazis in Germany. The Karl Astel’s Institute for Tobacco Hazards Research that was established under Adolf Hitler’s regime in 1941 recommended and enforced a smoking ban across the country, and the Nazi government continuously broadcast anti-tobacco campaigns until its downfall in 1945.
From then to now, the reason this habit has just not been broken is simple: addiction. A study published in British Medical Journal by Dr. Robert M Proctor of Stanford University states: “American cigarette makers have been quietly celebrating addiction since the 1950s, when one expressed how ‘fortunate for us’ it was that cigarettes ‘are a habit they can’t break’.” The same study talks about how Lorillard’s president, Curtis H Judge, answered questions in an April 1984 deposition, he was asked why he regarded Lorillard’s position on smoking and health as important:
A: Because if we are marketing a product that we know causes cancer, I’d get out of the business…I wouldn’t be associated with marketing a product like that.
A: If cigarettes caused cancer, I wouldn’t be involved with them…I wouldn’t sell a product that caused cancer.
Q: …Because you don’t want to kill people? … Is that the reason?
Q: …If it was proven to you that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer, do you think cigarettes should be marketed?
A: No…No one should sell a product that is a proven cause of lung cancer.
Lorillard, by the way, is the tobacco company that manufactures cigarettes under the brand names Newport, Maverick, Old Gold, Kent, True, Satin, and Max.
Today, Bhutan is the the only country to outlaw the cultivation, harvesting, production, and sale of tobacco and tobacco products under the Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan 2010. I hope we follow next! In 2012, the government did try to take a few similar steps. Gutkha was banned. The vendors, being the Jugaad experts they are, began selling betel nut and tobacco in separate pouches! Today, the vendors and the companies are not happy at all. They are protesting against the fact it is only chewing tobacco that has been banned, blaming the government for not banning cigarettes because there are MNCs involved. They are planning to form a committee to present this case to the government.
Well, if at all they ask for a cigarette ban, too, I think I’ll side with the tobacco companies, just this once, and help save millions of people from dying early from cancer, heart attacks and strokes! What do you say?
Dr. Achyuthan Eswar
Naturopathy, Yoga and Acupuncture Physician