A report that claims that tobacco-related diseases cost the government Rs 1,04,500 crore (over $15 billion) in 2011 alone is yet to be made public despite it being continually cited by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the minister across several fora, a RTI reply has revealed….writes Rupesh Dutta
“….It is to inform you that a complete report on Economic Burden of Tobacco Related Diseases in India has not been published yet,” said the RTI reply from the ministry, filed after more than a year’s time.
It is not clear whether there has been any increment in expenditure in the years since, as there are no details of this. The reply also does not provide any details on the methodology of conducting the study.
The absence of the complete report means that there is no segregated data on how much the government spent on treating which tobacco-related disease. Tobacco causes several disease such as of the lungs, mouth, tongue, liver and also nerves.
In 2014, then Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the total economic cost attributable to diseases caused by tobacco use in 2011 amounted to Rs 1,04,500 crore.
He had also said that direct medical costs of treating tobacco-attributable diseases was Rs 16,800 crore, while the indirect morbidity cost was Rs 14,700 crore. The cost of premature mortality was Rs. 73,000 crore — all this a substantial productive loss to the nation.
The report estimates direct and indirect costs from all diseases caused by tobacco-use and four specific diseases, namely, respiratory diseases, tuberculosis, cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
As per the information provided by the ministry, the report was supported by the MoHWF and the WHO Country Office for India and was developed by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), a public-private initiative.
Amal Pusp, Director (Tobacco Control) at the ministry, refused to comment on the issue despite several attempts.
Rijo John, a faculty member at the Indian Institute of Technology-Jodhpur, and the lead author of the report, said that he and his team had compiled it almost two years ago. He was clueless as to why it has not been published.
“I, being the lead author, completed the report almost two years back. However, I do not know why it has not been published till now,” John said.
Stating that the delay may not be deliberate, John added that one of the reasons could be the many campaigns against tobacco. He also said the report should be out in the next two-three months.
The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than seven million people a year. More than six million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 890,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. India alone sees nearly one million deaths every year.
India has 120 million tobacco users, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey.
Nearly 80 per cent of the more than one billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is the heaviest.
Despite the unavailability of the final report on the economic burden by tobacco-related diseases, India has taken a slew of initiatives against tobacco and also has moved to the third place globally among 205 countries with 85 per cent implementation of pictorial warnings on packets of tobacco products.
This is a dramatic leap from India’s 136th position in 2014 and the 123rd position in 2012, revealed an International Status Report at the Seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) at Greater Noida, adjacent to the national capital last November.