New Delhi: Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare today addressed the virtual event to highlight 25 Years of Global Tobacco Control Progress. This event was part of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ year long 25th Anniversary celebration. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids hosted an hour-long virtual event highlighting how tobacco control movements have achieved significant declines in tobacco use in countries around the world. On this occasion, elected officials and civil society leaders from five countries also participated, which have experienced double-digit declines in tobacco use.
Addressing the event, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that substantial progress has been achieved in the country in controlling communicable diseases over the past 75 years. He added that tobacco use is a leading cause of premature, NCD associated mortality and morbidity, which is a growing public health challenge.
Here’s the complete text of the Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan’s speech.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m grateful to have been invited to join you today on the proud occasion of the 25th anniversary of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. I would like to express my immense appreciation for the numerous achievements attained over the years under the aegis of this organization. However, tobacco use is so interwoven in our society that untiring efforts are required to successfully control this epidemic. Friends, it gives me great pleasure to share that as India moves towards 75 years of independence, there has been remarkable progress in the health status of its population. Substantial progress has been achieved in controlling communicable diseases over the years, although, declines in morbidity and mortality from communicable diseases have been accompanied by a gradual shift to chronic non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancers, mental health disorders and injuries. We all know that tobacco use is a leading cause of premature, NCD associated mortality and morbidity, which is a growing public health challenge.
Our efforts in India to curtail tobacco use are aimed at reaching our entire population of 1.3 billion, to make each segment aware of its ill-effects and associated risks. Early in my political career, as Health Minister of Delhi, I gave shape to the Delhi Prohibition of Smoking and Non-smokers Health Protection Act, which was passed by the Delhi assembly in 1997. This very statute became the model for Central Legislation banning smoking in public places in 2002, at the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Since then, we have come a long way in our collective fight against tobacco. We have enacted several legislations to curb tobacco use, its promotion & advertising. We have been among the first few countries to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. India has a dedicated National Tobacco Control Program. In the last seven years, the strong political will and concerted targeted action by my government has contributed to substantial achievements in tobacco control. Measures like the displaying large warnings covering 85% of area on packs of tobacco products, introduction of a dedicated helpline for assisting people to quit tobacco, combating the menace of e-Cigarettes through a Statute on Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes and like devices, regulation of display and use of tobacco products in films and television programs, are among the various steps we have been taking to generate awareness and advance tobacco control.
Friends, Tobacco control needs to be pursued like a mission, a social movement and a noble cause, a cause with which we can live, identify and do something worthwhile for humankind. In all humility, I proudly recall till this day, the moment when I was conferred the prestigious WHO Director General’s Commendation Medal in 1998 for my contribution in working towards a tobacco free society. Just this year, I have been awarded the WHO special DG award recognizing my efforts towards tobacco control and my role in 2019 national legislation to ban E-cigarettes and similar products which were doing great harm to our youth. I share this, only to highlight my zeal to fight tobacco use with vigour over the past 3 decades and to further motivate the distinguished ambassadors of tobacco control gathered here today to continue to carry on the great work they have been doing and with the same spirit. Let us remember that in our fight for tobacco control, we have a moral high ground since we are on the path of righteousness. We in society can contribute a lot towards discouraging tobacco use among youth. Schools can raise awareness of the dangers of initiating nicotine and tobacco use by providing information resources and making their campuses tobacco and ENDS free. Youth groups can organize local events to engage and educate young people on the many harms of tobacco use, including its impact on personal finances. Film, television and drama production companies can pledge to no longer depict tobacco or e-cigarette use. Celebrities and social influencers can reject offers of “brand ambassadorship” and refuse sponsorship by nicotine and tobacco industries. There is too much pain in seeing young people die at an early age due to prolonged tobacco use. I wish to see an outcry let there be rage let there be anger against any attempts to dilute or weaken the tobacco control efforts, policy or law. I have no doubt in my mind that together we can win this battle and make a historic difference. For this, we need to play our role with the highest sense and call of duty. Let us, today, resolve to do this, to attain the goal of a tobacco free and a healthy world. I assure you that India is making its best efforts to play its role and take the tobacco control leadership forward. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this momentous occasion. I wish you all great success in your endeavours dedicated towards the cause of tobacco control.