Promoting cigarette smoking and refusing to accept its resultant health hazards is but sheer avarice on the part of our politicians as well as the tobacco industry
ONE of the most amusing news items that
appeared in almost every leading newspaper of November 14, 1995, was about
the goings on at the conference of the
International Tobacco Growers' Association (ITGA) held in Bangalore. The
Hindu said that Karnataka chief minister,
H D Deve Gowda, "did not subscribe to
the popular notion that tobacco was the
sole cause of cancer, tuberculosis and
other diseases". The rrGA president, Hains
Graslow, said that the World Health
Organization (WHO) figures on tobacco-
related deaths were not realistic. The conference seemed targetted at dissuading the
Central government from going ahead
with the ban on tobacco, as it would affect
more than 45 lakh people directly or indirectly, for whom this was the main source
Since the '50s, there has been sufficient scientific evidence to evaluate health
risks due to cigarette smoking. In 1962,
the Royal College of Physicians, London,
reported, "Cigarette smoking is a cause of
lung cancer and bronchitis and various
other less common diseases." Subsequently, a mammoth, 150,000-words report was released in
1964 in the us by the surgeon general's advisory committee on
smoking and health. The principal judgement was, "Cigarette
smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the us to
warrant appropriate remedial action".
By 1965, the us government made it compulsory for each
cigarette packet to carry- a label stating the health hazard. In
1971, the Federal government banned cigarette advertising on
radio and television. By this time, at least 80 per cent of professional health and research organisations, medical societies and
government health agencies in the us and other countries concluded that cigarette smoking is an important health hazard.
Radio andtelevision bans on tobacco-related advertisements
were already in practice in Britain (1965) and Italy (1962). Our
country too has the ban, as well as the mandatory warning in
every packet. Tobacco industry itself has some kind of self-censorship in advertising and ad messages are surrogate, not direct.
Young people are the industry's new-customers. In 1992 alone, the industry
spent more than us $5.2 billion on advertising; only the automobile industry spends
more on advertising in the us. Sporting
events offer the biggest exposures, besides
bill-boards, consumer items like hats, T-
shirts, jackets or lighters. Studies show that
tobacco advertising and promotion are
especially effective with young people.
Robert F Perry, MD, Pee Lee Clinic,
Wilmington, North Carolina,.says, "Real
progress will occur only when we enact laws
that treat the marketing of tobacco products to young people as the felony of child
abuse." A news item in the September 23,
1995 issue of the British Medical Journal
says that the Olympic Games will ban
tobacco advertising. A smoke-free policy
was in force at the Games in 1992, but was
Thus, we have two distinct scenarios.
One demonstrates an utmost concern
about health risks, with emphasis on measures to control the growing number of
young addicts.'The other is of unabashed
advertising and promotional efforts by the
industry. In India, notwithstanding the ban
on radio and television advertisements,
there appears to be very little anxiety and almost negligible
efforts towards deaddiction and prevention of growth of new
addicts among youngsters.
No doubt, more and more areas are now-a-days being
declared 'no-smoking zones'. However, covert encouragement
to tobacco use is evident. What else is the Wills World Cup all
about? These four white letters on a red band are omnipresent.
One sees them thousands of times in the field or on the television sets. Otherwise so innocuous, it is an extremely sophisticated but penetrating advertisement and promotional gimmick
for smoking and the use of tobacco.
The Wills World Cup, 1996, is expected to be the most
expensive, most widely covered, and the most watched world
cup ever (estimated audience 1.5 billion), reports one news-
magazine. With all this regular marketing blitzkrieg on, can
parents, teachers, elders and counsellors have the moral
courage and.strength to ask youngsters not to smoke?
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