NCPCR chief calls for more taxes on tobacco products, OTT, films displaying their use


New Delhi, Jan 16: National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Priyank Kanoongo has advocated increasing taxes on tobacco products as well as on films, OTT platforms and other media that display use of such items in any form. He said affordability and easy availability of lethal tobacco products is harmful, especially for the youth, and an increase in taxes will not only make these products out of bounds, but the additional revenues earned can be used for the treatment and rehabilitation of those suffering from tobacco-related diseases.
Experts have called for making India free from tobacco during the National Youth Week, being celebrated from January 12-18 to mark Swami Vivekananda Jayanti.
Delivering the keynote address during the webinar 'Freedom From Tobacco: What India Wants' on the occasion of the National Youth Day, Kanoongo, who is the chairman of India's apex child rights body NCPCR, advocated increase in taxes on a wide range of tobacco products.
According to a statement, Kanoongo said that affordability and easy availability of such tobacco products is harmful, especially for the youth. The additional revenues earned from the increased taxes can be used for the treatment and rehabilitation of those suffering from tobacco-related diseases, he said.
In addition to requesting increased taxes on a wide range of tobacco products, the NCPCR chief also suggested an increase in taxes on films, OTT (over-the-top), and other media that show use of tobacco in any form.
"Imposition of greater taxation on media that displays use of tobacco will require people to pay more and help discourage glorification of tobacco products. The NCPCR has also requested the government to use the earnings from increased taxes entirely on rehabilitation and preventive activities," he informed.
"There is a psychological warfare by the tobacco companies. They are targeting young children by positioning tobacco-related ads at their eye-level at points of sale and promoting sale of tobacco products such as gutkha and beedi, alongside sweets, candies, and toys," Kanoongo said.
At present, India loses more than 13 lakh of its citizens annually to tobacco and secondhand smoke. "The number of tobacco users is rising and it is scary to note that children between 13 and 15 years of age constitute 8.5 per cent of them," said Prof (Dr) Uma Kumar, Head of Rheumatology Department, AIIMS, New Delhi.
Long-term use of tobacco is hazardous and is a known cause of cardio-vascular problems, neurological disorders, stroke, reduction in immunity, recurrent infections, respiratory illnesses, and auto-immune conditions. She called for various policy measures to protect the youth from this menace.
Poonam Pandey, senior journalist, participating in the discussion strongly advocated an increase in taxes on tobacco products to reduce their easy availability. Arun Anand, author and senior journalist, moderated the webinar which was the result of the collective effort of concerned citizens.
An e-book, 'What India Wants', was released on this occasion. It is a compilation of results from various polls and surveys that suggest more than 88 per cent respondents want the proposed amendments to the tobacco control laws to come into effect.
The poll results also indicate a sense of urgency among the masses to make India tobacco-free. A scientific survey conducted in 10 states and several Twitter polls conducted by various concerned citizens are included in this e-book.
"Tobacco consumption is striking deeper roots in the country and increasingly engulfing our children and youth. Children as young as 10 years of age are now using tobacco products," the latest Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4) states.
Therefore, experts insist on increasing taxes and passing of the proposed amendments to the tobacco-control law, COTPA, to ensure better deterrence to tobacco consumption, the statement said.

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