Sunday, March 11, 2012

The debate on banning cigarettes

A social worker friend of mine is working in a hospital with many terminally ill cancer patients. Most of them are there due to consumption of tobacco and cigarettes in particular. She feels very strongly about banning tobacco in this country (India). But can we ?
Let's look at two things
  1. Educated people smoke.
  2. Many livelihoods depend on the sale of tobacco.
Assuming the first option i.e. getting the educated guys on track is a plausible solution, what about the latter?
It is a well known fact that tobacco and in particular cigarettes contribute in a big way to the GDP of this country. If tomorrow we ban cigarettes, those that support their families by selling cigarettes will resist and even protest. 
But in the long run, cigarettes are harmful to the productivity of labor of any country and thus we need to look into stopping its production and consumption. Unfortunately policy makers have looked at reducing its consumption by propaganda and increasing taxes thus price. To stop consumption we need to look into providing alternate sources of equally good options for those selling and producing cigarettes. If that happens, we are looking at a smoke free, cancer free, happy future.