Health and Family Welfare Minister Kaul Singh Thakur has stressed the need for structured response on tobacco control with earmarked budget and sustainable funding pattern.
Participating in a panel discussion in the session on ‘Taxing health harming products and creating health promotion funds’ at the 46th Union world lung health conference in Cape Town in South Africa, Thakur said he had taken up with the Ministry of Health Government of India to earmark budget for tobacco control for all the states.
The minister said the Himachal government had already been using the money collected as fine by enforcing COTPA (Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act), 2003. He said
“Till date we have collected US dollars 200,000 by way of fines and using the same for tobacco control measures. I have taken up with the Chief Minister that some percentage of the VAT (Value Added Tax) collected from tobacco products should also be utilised for tobacco control measures”
Kaul Singh Thakur, who was on the panel with experts from Vietnam and Philippines showcased the success of Himachal Pradesh in tobacco control and said the state had at once doubled the VAT on tobacco products from 18% to 36% last year. “There was lot of pressure from the industry to roll back the decision, but we stuck to it,” he said.
He said the state government had recently imposed ban on open sale of cigarettes, which was a public health concern particularly with regard to youngsters and involved tax evasion.
Thakur said there was a need to learn from successes of different sectors like climate change and vaccines, which have started efforts ion sustainable funding.
The Minister said there was a big opportunity to get the responsible investors, donors and private foundations together and have their commitment on tobacco control. He proposed that the Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease should consider doing a Call to Action to End Tobacco Use in the coming years.
Senior Medical Superintendent, IGMC, Shimla Dr Ramesh Chand, and Programme Officer (Tuberculosis) Deen Dyal Hospital Shimla Dr. Omesh Kumar Bharti also made presentations in the conference.