Union health minister Harsh Vardhan is for levying increased taxes on tobacco and tobacco-related products to discourage its consumption. Releasing a report on the economic burden of tobacco related diseases in India on Thursday, the minister said he will be writing to the finance ministry soon seeking necessary action on the issue.
"It makes perfect economic sense to regulate the use of tobacco in order to achieve the goal of controlling non-communicable disease in India. Tobacco use is a preventable risk factor for major diseases and the resultant economic consequences," Vardhan said, releasing the report, compiled by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
The report, supported by World Health Organisation (WHO), estimated direct and indirect costs from all diseases caused due to tobacco use and four specific diseases namely, respiratory diseases, tuberculosis, cardiovascular diseases and cancers. It estimated that the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India in the year 2011 amounted to a staggering Rs 1, 04,500 crores — 12% more than the combined state and central government expenditure on health care in the same year.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) shared the highest burden (Rs 3,600 crore) of direct medical and indirect morbidity costs on account of tobacco use, followed by respiratory diseases (Rs 2,800 crore), tuberculosis (Rs 2,300 crore) and cancers (Rs1, 400 crore).
"Of the 13 states which were part of the study, Uttar Pradesh shared the highest (28%) of the estimated health cost burden followed by West Bengal (13%) and Andhra Pradesh (12%)," said one of the researchers.
WHO representative to India Nata Menabde said raising taxes is one of the strongest weapons to fight out tobacco and this is what the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control mandates. "A tax increase that raises prices of tobacco products by 10% is estimated to reduce tobacco consumption by 4% to 5%.Essentially, as tax goes up, death and disease goes down. Raising taxes on tobacco is a win-win situation. It is good for people's health and good for the economy," Menabde said.
The WHO recommends that share of excise tax for tobacco products should be increased to 70% of retail price. "The tobacco dependence treatment should be mainstreamed into the existing health care delivery systems," said Dr Monika Arora, director, health promotion, PHFI.
Times of India
31 May 2014
New Delhi, India