BANGALORE: Anti-tobacco activists in the state have called for a national policy on tobacco control in the wake of its increasing production and usage.
With India failing to fulfil the WHO-FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) protocol and still being the second-largest tobacco supplier in the world, the activists said the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ has lost its meaning. The government should try to curb tobacco production as more and more farmers in the Mysore-Hassan belt have been lured by multinational tobacco companies with incentives and assistance, they said.
Vasantkumar Mysoremath, convener of Anti-Tobacco Forum, said the day is forgotten with just some processions and seminars organised for the sake of it.
He said it was time to adopt harsher methods for drastic reduction in raw tobacco supply. “With aggressive strategies being adopted by tobacco majors for continuous supply of raw material, we have to address the core issue through drastic but phased reduction of raw material, instead of raising taxes on cigarettes and beedis or spending money on no-smoking campaigns,” Vasantkumar said.
State Tobacco Cell coordinator Dr Jagannath said the government has already instructed the Agriculture Department to decrease the acreage in Mysore, Hassan and Belgaum districts. The emphasis is on phased reduction in areas like Hunsur, Periyapatna, Arkalgud and Nippani. The Mysore Horticultural Division has already been making efforts in weaning away tobacco farmers, which is not an easy task when one looks at the commercial advantages.
Nagaraj, Deputy Director, Horticulture, Mysore Division, said the officials are helping farmers with advice and inputs to gradually give up tobacco farming. He said, “...we have selected seven taluks like Periyapatna, Hunsur, H D Kote and K R Nagar where tobacco is widely grown. We have been motivating farmers to go in for remunerative crops like banana, papaya, watermelon, tomato and vegetables. Although a tough task, we have many success stories like Gumanahalli where farmers have taken up horticultural crops.”
Going up in fumes
India is the second-largest supplier of tobacco. In the past decade, the acreage of tobacco cultivation has gone up by almost 100 per cent. In Karnataka, more than 60,000 licensed/unlicensed farmers are cultivating tobacco on over 90,000 hectares. In 2011, the number of licensed farmers was 3,836 and unlicensed farmers 3,416. These farmers grew and supplied 13.8 million kg of tobacco, with a government support price of Rs 110 per kg.
Khader Talks Tough on Ban
BANGALORE: The government will strictly enforce the law to curb consumption of tobacco products in public places and make Karnataka tobacco-free, Health and Family Welfare Minister U T Khader said on Friday.
The minister told reporters that the ban on sale of tobacco products within a 100-metre radius of schools and government offices is being flouted. “I will talk to the Agriculture and Horticulture Ministers to convince tobacco growers to switch to other crops to cut tobacco cultivation by at least 5-10 per cent.”
Khader said Rs 21.19 lakh has been collected as fines from across the state ever since the ban came into force in the country.
“The directions of the United Nations to put restrictions on tobacco products will be enforced. Steps will be taken to impose a total ban on consuming tobacco products in Vidhana Soudha and Vikas Soudha,” he said.
To a question, he said the government is taking strict action against quacks and notices have been served to 1,819 people in 30 districts while FIRs have been filed against 161 people.