Australian expertise in tobacco control is helping save lives around the world, but that work could be undone.
Every day, 5500 children in India start using tobacco. If they continue the habit, as many do, the illnesses brought about by tobacco addiction will kill about half of them. In the meantime, Big Tobacco is allowed to continue glamorising the habit through fancy packages that appeal to youngsters.
Nearly half of all males in India use tobacco in some form. In total, about 275 million people use tobacco. Every year, it kills 1.2 million people in India. That’s more than malaria and HIV put together. Often, the entire family is pushed into poverty by catastrophic healthcare expenditure, as well as the loss of the breadwinner – usually the male in the family.
Throughout the Asia-Pacific region, tobacco use is one of the leading killers. It is responsible for more deaths than any other substance in India (and the world). Although tobacco control did not rate a mention when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently visited Australia, it is a significant threat to India’s development.
Australia is doing its part to help its neighbours in the region respond to this development issue. But while we are doing our part, we must be careful that regional trade agreements do not hinder our efforts.