Health and development experts in Kerala have applauded India’s commitment to tobacco control reflected in the first ‘South Asian Speakers’ Summit on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)’ that concluded in Dhaka, Bangladesh last week.
India has endorsed the ‘Dhaka Declaration on SDG Action in South Asia’ that envisions making the region tobacco free by 2030. With this, India has agreed to “develop, strengthen and enforce tobacco-control policies, legislation and regulations” in line with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). FCTC is the international treaty on tobacco control of the World Health Organisation, which India ratified on 5 February 2004.
Through this Declaration, India has also agreed to work towards decreasing the affordability of all tobacco products by increasing tobacco taxes and “endeavour to set aside revenue generated from tobacco taxes to support tobacco control efforts.”
The Dhaka Declaration emerged after two days of deliberations by the Parliament Speakers of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka on 30 and 31 January 2016.
Hon’ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha Smt Sumitra Mahajan chaired a session on “The Role of Parliaments in Implementing the SDGs”.
Shri CP John, Member, Kerala State Planning Board said, “Addressing public health issues has become a challenge in emerging economies. Tobacco use in different forms is a major threat to public health and development. Unfortunately, tobacco abuse found in marginal communities is wrongly conceived as a tradition. So the state should come forward in controlling tobacco use by strong enforcement and regular monitoring while the responsible citizenry should take the lead in educating the masses through wide public awareness programmes.”
Tobacco control has been included as a target under Goal 3 – Health and Well-being – of SDGs 2015-30.
Dr KR Thankappan, Professor and Head, Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies said, “As the country is grappling with shrinking health budgets, India’s strategy to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases through controlling tobacco use is a welcome step. Multi-sectoral efforts to reduce tobacco use which kills 1 million Indians a year are the need-of-the-hour.”
The South Asian Speakers’ Summit also announced the establishment of South Asian Speakers’ Forum that will meet at least once a year. India will host the second meeting of South Asian Speakers’ Forum in 2017.
The Bangladesh Summit was convened and organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and was hosted by the Bangladesh Parliament with technical support from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.