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Scrutiny
  
Your butt is my smokin’ problem
Smoking regulation has achieved some success; but it is pathetic that governments don’t have the honesty and sincerity to completely ban cigarette production globally – it’s clear how well money and lobbying works
10/06/2010

It is appalling that despite all the medical advances mankind has made, the twenty first century still grapples with diseases that are perhaps even deadlier than those in the dark ages and have killed millions. The least we can do is to not add to the already depressing statistics through a social ill like smoking.

Innumerable researches have concluded that cigarettes contain 11 different known compounds that cause cancer. And almost everyone in any corner of the world – smoker or a non-smoker – is quite convinced that there are enough reasons to quit smoking irrespective of age, wealth, colour of skin or region where they live. Nearly every nation on this earth has realized the need for policy interventions and have gone some distance as well. They have achieved some success too, especially in the developed part of the world. As per data provided in Tobacco Yearbooks by Economic Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, during the 17 years between 1990 and 2007, while production and export of cigarettes in the US dropped by about 34%, consumption decreased by 31%. In 1990, cigarette production was 709.7 billion units, which came down to 471.6 billion in 2007. While the consumption was around 487 billion units per year in 1990, it came down to 360 billion in 2007 in the US. The picture is pretty similar in other developed nations of the world.

However, this does not mean that the job is done. Data on a global scale presents a horrifying picture today – more than ever before. There are 1.1 billion smokers in the world, and if current trends continue, the number is expected to reach 1.6 billion by 2025. More horrifyingly, of these, about 80% live in the low or middle-income countries. There are over 300 million smokers in China itself; consuming over 1.7 trillion cigarettes a year, which means 3 million cigarettes a minute. Researches further show that approximately 10 million cigarettes are purchased every minute; 15 billion are sold each day, and over 5 trillion are produced and used annually.

The true return of this booming business is evident in the fact that in every eight seconds, tobacco use claims a victim in some part of the world. That means around 5 million deaths annually. Moreover, trillions of filters, filled with toxic chemicals from tobacco smoke, pollute the environment as discarded waste every year. Realizing the importance of controlling this menace, many countries have laws in place to ban advertising and any kind of promotional activities related to smoking. Despite this, a 1998 survey found that tobacco companies were among the top 10 advertisers in 18 out of 66 countries surveyed.

Thus anti-smoking policies have worked to reduce tobacco consumption; but it is still a serious issue that needs to be brought under control. In such a situation, it is often debated whether banning the tobacco production itself as a policy decision would deliver the desired results. There are complications on this front. Chinese counterfeit cigarette production reached an unprecedented 400 billion cigarettes a year, enough to supply every US smoker with 460 packs a year in just one decade since 1997; making Yunxiao the “illegal cigarette manufacturing capital of the world.” Also, there is a case of a conflict of interest, since the tobacco industry funds government treasuries massively every year.

To ban cigarette production will not only need strong political will, but as the 2005 movie Thank You For Smoking clearly showed, will need a lot of honesty – with the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between four largest US tobacco companies and 46 US states, which freed the companies of liability due to harm caused by tobacco use – being a shocking example.

By:- Akram Hoque
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