Reports of increased smuggling of tobacco products into Kerala proves that the ban on the peddling of such harmful drugs in the state have not been effective.
Within the past one week, banned tobacco products worth Rs 20 lakh were seized from the Kozhikode railway station alone. The reports confirm that not just the check posts but trains and interstate buses are also used effectively for peddling drugs. Today, such harmful substances are easily and cheaply available at the roadside stalls irrespective of villages and cities. Since drugs like hans, pan parag, Gutka and madhu are not banned in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, they could be easily smuggled into Kerala. The cheap prices, the prospects of quick sale of the products and weak repercussions if caught attract more and more persons into the field. Mainly people like the migrant workers from other states, teenagers and youths engaging in ordinary jobs are seen enslaved by such drugs. The mindset that their consumption isn’t so much an offense is also a significant factor that fails the ban. Tobacco products have been banned in Kerala and public smoking is a punishable offense in the state. Advertising of such products are also banned in the state. The Centre has strictly insisted the manufacturing companies to devote around 65 per cent of the surface areas of cigarette packets on both sides to graphically and literally represent the health warnings. Adverts about the dangerous health risks caused by nicotine in the lungs are continually broadcast in theatres and on televisions. Despite all these efforts, the diseases triggered by tobacco products are still on the rise in the state, the reason being the rapidly emerging smuggling market. Kerala is far ahead of the national average in the consumption of tobacco and hence, in the case of consequent diseases too. The study conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India and the Union Health Ministry reveals that the economic loss of the state due to the diseases triggered by tobacco usage crosses Rs 1500 crore.
In India, 10 lakh cancer patients are formed every year out of which 25 per cent consume tobacco. One of the leading causes of mouth cancer in 80 per cent cases is tobacco usage. The country spends five times the tax on tobacco products for the diseases triggered by its usage. More than one lakh crore are used up for this purpose which means that the financial liability caused by tobacco is not trivial. Another painful side is the upward trend in tobacco usage among students. Around 50 lakh youngsters are enslaved by different tobacco products. The schools as well as colleges have turned into hubs for sale and consumption of such harmful drugs. As part of the ‘Clean Campus, Safe Campus’ project, about 35, 000 raids were conducted in different colleges campuses following which 8, 037 cases were registered and more than 10 lakh rupees fined. Girls too have become addicted to drugs nowadays with both men and women equally affected by tobacco-related ailments today. Curbing down the smuggling of tobacco products at any cost is the most effective way to cut down consumption. The government should be cautious in not just forming legislatures for curbing tobacco usage but also in taking appropriate steps to stop production and in cutting down the number of tobacco manufacturing companies. Stringent laws should be implemented to ensure a drug-free life which is essential for a healthy individual as well as a healthy society.