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Updated: March 16, 2012 11:49 IST

“Too many lives lost…”

Bindu Shajan Perappadan
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Dr. Kelly Henning
Dr. Kelly Henning

Dr. Kelly Henning of Bloomberg Philanthropies on curbing tobacco abuse and reducing road traffic deaths in India

The figures don't read too well for India with the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2010 stating that of the estimated 275 million tobacco users in India, about 120 million of them are smokers (accounting for 10 per cent of the world's smoking population) and 163 million use smokeless tobacco. It is estimated that 2,500 Indians die every day and one million Indians die every year from tobacco-related diseases. If current trends continue tobacco will account for 13 per cent of all deaths in India by 2020.

And warning that unless these figures are controlled it would register a sharp ascend in the coming years, Dr. Kelly Henning head of global health programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies who was in India recently said: ``In India too many lives are lost to tobacco abuse. We, however, know that hard hitting, evidence based mass media campaigns work to warn people about the ill effects of tobacco. That is why Bloomberg Philanthropies is partnering with the Indian Government to help strengthen the tobacco control policies. Through our global initiatives we continues to advocate for the use of these types of campaigns along with other evidences based strategies such as ensuring a 100 per cent smoke free workplace and higher price on all tobacco products. Stopping this epidemic requires nothing less.''

“Stringent monitoring, higher taxes, advertising ban on tobacco products are the way forward to ensuring that India has an edge over the war that it should wage against tobacco abuse in the country. The Government needs to get members from all sections of society to contribute towards preventing the spread of tobacco abuse especially among the youth of the country. There is an urgent need to tell the youth that tobacco kills and that can be reinforced in several ways. The tobacco abuse among the under 15 age group is alarming. Besides this, the abuse of chewable tobacco is a massive problem in the country and needs to be taken up on a war footing,'' she added.

Dr. Kelly underlined the four major objectives of the $375 million six year Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco – a global project aimed at curbing the tobacco epidemic in low and middle income countries.

This includes working towards developing a rigorous system to monitor the status of global tobacco use, to support advocates' efforts to educate communities about the harms of tobacco and to enhance tobacco control activities that work towards a tobacco free world.

“We are also working towards supporting public sector efforts to pass and enforce key laws and implement effective policies, including taxing cigarettes, preventing smuggling, altering the image of tobacco and protecting workers from exposure to second hand smoking. Work is also on to refine and optimize tobacco control programs to help smokers stop using tobacco and to prevent children from starting,” she said.

Besides its work with preventing tobacco abuse, the group is also now working on reducing road traffic deaths in low and middle income countries.

“Bloomberg Global Road Safety Program – is a five year, $ 125 million global program to reduce road traffic deaths in low and middle income countries. This is a ten country project and in India we have started with Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. The project deals with various aspects of educating and sensitizing the traffic police, promoting responsible driving, reducing drunken driving etc all aimed at bringing down the death rate due to rash and negligent driving,” said Dr. Kelly.

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