“We are committed to strengthening non-communicable disease programmes and interventions and implementation of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) as an integral part of the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” This was stated by Shri J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare at the opening of the Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, at Noida. His Excellency Shri Maithripala Sirisena, Honourable President of Sri Lanka, were also present on the occasion and delivered a special address.
Shri Faggan Singh Kulaste, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Shri C K Mishra, Secretary (Health), Dr. Oleg Salagay, President of the COP, Dr. Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the Convention Secretariat were also present at the inaugural session.
His Excellency Shri Maithripala Sirisena applauded the commitment of India in taking the measures to control tobacco consumption. The Honourable President stated that tobacco and alcohol control is on his top agenda too. He highlighted the steps taken by Sri Lanka in this direction. He stated that Sri Lanka recently reviewed tobacco taxation and increased it by 10%. He further said that the government is also thinking of changing the packaging of tobacco products in near future. The Sri Lankan President informed that the Sri Lankan government has adopted strict anti-tobacco laws that have shown encouraging results in curbing the tobacco usage in the young and adult population. He also highlighted the growing menace of smokeless tobacco in Sri Lanka and the neighbouring region.
Shri J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, said that the Government continues to take strong steps for regulation of the Smokeless tobacco products and have prohibited the production, sale, transportation and storage of certain forms of smokeless tobacco products under our food safety regulations. “There is now a complete ban on the manufacture and sale of Gutkha and Pan Masala containing tobacco or nicotine, a form of chewing tobacco,” Shri Nadda added.
Shri Nadda informed that recently the Honourable Supreme Court of India has directed all the States and Union Territories in India to file affidavits on compliance of the ban imposed on manufacturing and sale of Gutkha and Pan Masala with tobacco or nicotine. “We have, in coordination with the Convention Secretariat, set up the ‘Global Knowledge Hub for Smokeless Tobacco’ which will act as a global repository of knowledge related to smokeless tobacco. India has successfully launched a toll-free Tobacco Cessation Quitline as well as mCessation services under the Be Healthy Be Mobile Initiative,” the Health Minister elaborated.
The Union Health Minister further stated that the Indian Government has done pioneering work in regulating promotion of tobacco use through films and TV programmes. “Our regulations require display of anti-tobacco health spots, disclaimer and messages, in films depicting tobacco use. We are one of the global leaders in this area, and since Indian films are watched across the globe, this messaging has great significance,” Shri Nadda pointed out.
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is the first global evidence-based public health treaty that recognises the right of all people to the highest standard of health. The Treaty was developed by countries in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. There are currently 180 Parties to the Convention. India has been the forerunner in ratification of this public health treaty and was the 7th Country to ratify the Convention in 2004. India provided a leadership role in the negotiations of FCTC and was also the Regional Coordinator for the South-East Asia Region. India ratified the treaty on 5th February 2004 and is therefore obligated to comply with the treaty provisions and its guidelines to reduce tobacco consumption globally.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the Governing Body of the WHO FCTC and is comprised of all Parties to the Convention. It keeps under regular review the implementation of the Convention and takes the decisions necessary to promote its effective implementation, and may also adopt protocols, annexes and amendments to the Convention. The regular sessions of COP are held at two yearly intervals and therefore, this time, the Seventh Session of Conference of Parties (COP7) is being hosted by Government of India in partnership with the WHO FCTC Secretariat, which is based at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva.
India has taken significant steps to implement decisions of previous COP sessions. As per the decisions taken during the Sixth Session of Conference of Parties (COP6), Government of India has set up a Global Knowledge Hub on Smokeless Tobacco at National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR). This hub serves as a repository of knowledge related to smokeless tobacco.
Also present on the occasion were Honourable Ministers of various countries, distinguished Delegates & Participants, Members of the COP Secretariat, officers of WHO, Observers to COP, civil society representatives and senior officers from the Ministry of Health.