Task Force on Tobacco Control; A Matter of Urgency

02 August 2012


Media Advisory

The Australia India Institute, based at the University of Melbourne has launched a report to consider urgent issues relating to tobacco control in one of the world’s most populous nations. At the centre of the policy, is the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products to mitigate the tobacco epidemic in India.

The report has been inspired by the efforts of the Australian government, which legislated plain packaging of all tobacco products on December 1, 2012.

Tobacco consumption, the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the world, is spreading to developing countries.  As tobacco production and consumption decreases in low and middle resource countries such as Australia, tobacco production has increased by 300 percent in places such as India.

Professor Amitabh Mattoo, Director of the Australia India Institute, said he was encouraged by the early response from the Indian Government.

“Early market research undertaken by the Taskforce, indicates that many stakeholders believe plain packaging of tobacco products would reduce tobacco use and could be implemented in India. Currently, we know that up to 35 % of Indian adults use tobacco and about one million Indians are estimated to die each year from smoking alone,” Professor Mattoo said.

“Added to this, we are aware of the alarmingly high use of tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco in children and young adults. The direct connection with an increase in oral cancers is also evident.”

Professor Rob Moodie, Professor of Public Health at the University of Melbourne and a co-author of the report said plain packaging, greater tobacco taxes and package warnings could make marked differences especially to young people taking up the habit.

“Conditions such as cancer, lung disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, account for 25% of all public spending on health in India. Tobacco products in India are very affordable and a life-long habit diverts already-scare resources away from food, education and health. The correlation is clear; a tobacco habit exacerbates low household income and poverty,” Professor Moodie said.

The Taskforce on Tobacco Control outlines a number of short-term, intermediate and long-term strategies that are aligned with current Indian policy and will assist with the reduction of smoking rates and creating a ‘smoke-free’ India.

Copies of the full report are available upon request.

For more information:

Annie Rahilly (Media Unit): T: +613 9035 5380 M: 0432 758 734 E: arahilly@unimelb.edu.au