THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: More proactive interventions are required to bring down tobacco consumption in Kerala, Speaker G Karthikeyan has said. He was speaking at a meeting with tobacco use victims on Tuesday. The meeting was organised by the Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV) campaign.
Karthikeyan assured all support in bringing down the disease burden due to tobacco use in Kerala. The Speaker also interacted with tobacco-induced cancer patients.
Director of the Regional Cancer Centre and Chairman-VoTV Kerala Dr Paul Sebastian, who led the interaction between the Speaker and tobacco use victims, briefed about the negative impact on public health due to tobacco use.
“Over 40 per cent of the 1.5 lakh patients coming to the RCC every year suffer from cancers due to the use of tobacco products. Painfully, the incidence of tobacco-related diseases has gone up among youngsters as well,” he added.
Sebastian said that this public health malady affecting Kerala can be averted by raising tobacco taxes. Rajasthan has raised tobacco taxes to 65 per cent, he pointed out. This reduced consumption and saved precious lives besides bringing in additional revenue to the exchequer. It was also pointed out to the Speaker that a mere 2.5 per cent increase in cigarette taxes had brought in nearly Rs 100 crore as revenue to the Kerala government.
Sebastian also emphasised the need for taxing ‘beedis’, that severely affect the health of people from poor socio-economic backgrounds in Kerala. Beedis are not taxed at all in Kerala.
Dr K R Thankappan, Professor and Head, Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies of the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology here, spoke about the rise in cardiac and respiratory problems among youth as a result of cigarette smoking.
P C Vishnunath MLA, who was present on the occasion, promised all support in sensitising the legislature on the enormity of the health issues caused by tobacco use in Kerala. The victims gave individual representations to the Speaker and the MLA for raising tobacco taxes in the state. Dr R Jayakrishnan, assistant professor, RCC; S Jayaraj, State Coordinator, Tobacco Free Kerala, and Johnson Edayaranmula of ADIC-India, were also present on the occasion.
VoTV is a unique campaign that gives a collective space and voice to tobacco victims and makes them agents of advocacy for bringing about policy changes.