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June 14, 2017

Tax increases and warning campaigns and images are reducing India’s tobacco epidemic

(New Delhi, India and New York, USA) –Vital Strategies today congratulates the Government of India on the findings of its research for the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) India (2017) study, which indicates that the proportion of adults (aged 15 years and over) using tobacco has decreased by 6 percent in the seven years since the last GATS India (2010) report.

José Luis Castro, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vital Strategies, commented, “This is a real vindication of the tobacco control policies implemented by the government during the past seven years. It once again confirms that the tobacco industry argues and lobbies against policies like tobacco taxes and large graphic health warnings because they work. Five years of tax increases have helped to discourage tobacco use from a financial point of view.  World-leading initiatives like the Film Rule, hard-hitting awareness-raising campaigns like Sunita, and large graphic health warnings on tobacco packs have helped to increase knowledge about tobacco’s deadly harms and economic costs. In showing that large graphic warnings on tobacco packs have encouraged nearly 62 percent of cigarette users to consider quitting, alongside nearly 54 percent of bidi users and 46 percent of smokeless tobacco users, this study is an important addition to the evidence base supporting the implementation of large graphic warnings in every country.

“Even more heartening is the fact that the prevalence of tobacco use has decreased by 6 percent among 15 to 24-year olds and the average age at which people start using tobacco has increased from approximately 17 years in 2009-10 to 18 years in 2016-17. Most lifetime tobacco users start using tobacco before the age of 21, so this is a step in the right protection for protecting future generations.

“Still, tobacco use remains comparatively high, with 29 percent of Indian adults continuing to use tobacco – representing millions of people potentially suffering from tobacco-related disease and premature death. We encourage India’s government to continue to implement policies to protect health. The innovative Film Rule, which has helped so many Indians to see the truth about tobacco’s harms, should be retained. Including bidis and smokeless tobacco in the demerit category under the new GST regime is a smart decision, which will help to discourage tobacco use in those categories. And ground-breaking initiatives like the recently-launched “TB-Cough” campaign, which reveals the links between TB and tobacco use, are helping to increase awareness of the wider dangers of tobacco. At Vital Strategies, we stand ready to continue to support the government in this important work.”

Research has shown that mass media campaigns and graphic health warnings on tobacco packs are one of the most effective means to prompt people to stop smoking. They are one of the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. M-P-O-W-E-R strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, of which Vital Strategies is a principal partner.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or tjohnston@vitalstrategies.org

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