While health organizations across the world are focussed on curbing smoking, India continues to face a big challenge of tackling the menace of smokeless or chewed tobacco. India is one of the largest consumers of smokeless tobaccos such as pan masala, gutkha and khaini.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's main agenda in the upcoming seventh session of the Conference of Parties (COP7) to World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) would be to focus on the problem.
"Our main agenda in the COP7 would be to focus on smokeless tobacco. India consumes smokeless tobacco more than cigarettes so we will be pushing the international community's attention towards it," said the ministry's secretary C K Mishra.
"Tobacco control is a movement we need to work on. We have been doing a lot of work for curbing smoking in India and we have achieved success also but smokeless tobacco needs special attention," he said.
Many people, especially in rural areas, consume various forms of smokeless tobacco which are directly linked to different kinds of cancers, doctors say. As per the ministry's directions, tobacco companies in India are required to display pictorial warnings up to 85 per cent on both sides of the packet.
Recently, the Supreme Court banned the sale of all forms of chewable tobacco and nicotine, and directed authorities, including the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) under the Union health ministry to strictly enforce its directions.
The Union government has set up a Global Knowledge Hub on Smokeless Tobacco at the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR). This hub serves as a repository of knowledge related to smokeless tobacco.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey – India (GATS) conducted by the ministry shows that 35 per cent of adults 15 years and above consume tobacco in some form or the other, with 48 per cent men and 20 per cent women consuming tobacco in some form.
GATS found that more than 20 crore Indians use smokeless tobacco. The health ministry has been focusing on creating awareness for smokeless tobacco. The audio and visual advertisements, in Hindi and English, along with the posters are being be used to create awareness regarding the harmful effects of tobacco use through TV, radio, at schools, community spaces, railway compartments, and social media.