Tobacco had its first use in the Americas where pre-Columbian people cultivated and used tobacco for medicinal and ceremonial purpose. It was Christopher Columbus who brought tobacco to Europe in the 16th century until it was popularized by the Jean Nicot of France, after whom the substance Nicotine is named. The first large-scale tobacco production began in Haiti by the Spanish.
Smoking tobacco is known as Dhumapana (drinking smoke) that dates back at least 2000 BC, however Indians never smoked tobacco rather smoked cannabis which find mention in Atharvaveda. Tobacco entered India during the reign of Shah Jahan, but it became popular only once the British took over India. It was then that the mass production of tobacco began and was encouraged.
It was not until the study shared by German scientist Franz Müller that the world came to know about tobacco carrying cancerous substance. What is ironic is that even today, about 4.2 million hectares of tobacco are under cultivation worldwide. Across the world, 6.7 million tons of tobacco is produced. The major tobacco producing nations are China (39.6%), India (8.3%), Brazil (7.0%) and the United States (4.6%). With around 5.5 trillion cigarettes produced in a year, the global tobacco market is valued at around £450 billion. While in India, the tobacco industry is valued to be more than Rs 22000 crores, out of which 12% is exported. Out of the total number of tobacco farmers in India, approximately 96,865 are registered tobacco farmers. Tobacco is produced in around 0.25% of India’s cultivated land while Jammu and Kashmir has the highest number of tobacco consumers in India. There are seven tobacco research centers located in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh (2), Punjab, Bihar, Karnataka (2) and West Bengal. The government has also setup Central Tobacco Promotion Council which works to increase exports of Indian tobacco.
The government further imposed taxations on tobacco, increased the image size of warnings on cigarette packets, took measure to penalize consumers but has not gone ahead with banning the companies that sell tobacco products. A gross contradiction is at play when on the one side we make the product widely available for easy access and on the other side we penalize consumers who buy the tobacco products.
To encourage abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption for a period of 24 hours, the World No Tobacco Day is observed every 31st . Every year, World Health Organisation announces a theme for this day. This year, the theme is “Stop illicit trade of tobacco products”. It intends to bring all nations to together and work towards ending illicit trade of tobacco. Even Fiinovation urges the government and other agencies to continue raising awareness that illegal tobacco products leads to increased trafficking, crime and increased flow of terrorism funds. There is an urgent need to combine our efforts towards reducing tobacco consumption along with ending illicit trade of tobacco products.
Let us all work towards a healthy world.
By – Rahul Choudhury
Media Team – Fiinovation