THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A demand has been raised to impose Value Added Tax (VAT) on ‘beedi’ and increase the VAT on cigarettes from 15 per cent to a substantial level to make both beedi and cigarettes unaffordable and unavailable.
At a workshop conducted on the ‘Role of media in tobacco control’ under the joint aegis of Achutha Menon Centre for Heath Science Studies, Tobacco-free Kerala and Kesari Memorial Journalist Trust here on Thursday, the speakers emphasized the urgent need of media taking a vital role in propagating the ill-effects of the use of tobacco and the necessity to raise the taxation on tobacco substances.
Dr K R Thankappan, Professor and Head of Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies, in his introductory address, stressed the need for creating awareness about the dangers involved in the use of tobacco in more effective way. Smoking causes cancer, heart ailments, stroke and lung diseases and diabetes. Smoked tobacco in any form will cause 90 per cent of lung cancers and is a significant risk factor for strokes.
Dr Jayakrishnan, assistant professor, Community Oncology, Regional Cancer Centre (RCC), said smoking is prevalent among 27.9 per cent of Kerala men compared to the all-India rate of 24.3 per cent. As much as 58.6 per cent of daily tobacco users consume tobacco within half-an-hour of waking up. It has been pointed out that 41.8 per cent of adults, including 47.2 per cent of males and 36.8 per cent of females, are exposed to second hand smoking in homes. Over 17 per cent of adults are exposed to second hand smoking at workplaces.
Studies and surveys have come out with the statistics that over 40 per cent of the cancers in Kerala are caused owing to tobacco use. Fifty-nine per cent of diabetes patients are tobacco users. The International Diabetes Federation in 2003 and the American Diabetes Association in 2004 have strongly recommended that people with diabetes should not smoke to avoid diabetes-related complications.
Speakers at the workshop pointed out that despite having banned the smoking in public places, the menace of public smoking has not been prevented completely.
Though pan masala was banned it is still available as the supply chain has not yet been severed.
The low tobacco taxes in Kerala are a major deterrent. World Health Organisation has stated that tobacco taxes have been proved more effective in reducing the use.
Dr Babu Mathew, honorary secretary of Regional Cancer Association and former head of Community Oncology, RCC said the governments that come to power from time to time were exempting beedi from taxes citing that it would affect the livelihood of the beedi workers. He said instead of playing that emotional side, governments should have imposed VAT on beedi and the same income could be utilised for the rehabilitation and training of the beedi workers.
Babu Mathew pointed out that while India earned Rs 5,040 crore from exports of tobacco and Rs 2,050 crore of excise duty per year, an amount of Rs 30,000 crore was spent in the public health sector for the treatment of tobacco-induced diseases.
Additional DHS Dr A S Pradeep Kumar, Press Club president P P James, Dr Yamini , N Sreeja, Vinson Kurien, Dr Sreejith N Kumar and Kesari Trust secretary Suresh Vellimangalam also spoke.