Tobacco Menace in India

Tobacco Menace in India



Why in the News?


World No Tobacco Day 2024 is celebrated annually on May 31st. This year’s theme is “Youth step in and speak out #TobaccoExposed.” This theme emphasises empowering young people globally to call on governments to protect them from aggressive tobacco marketing strategies. India ranks second globally in terms of tobacco consumption after China, with approximately 26 crore people estimated to be tobacco users during the 2016-2017 period. 


Harmful impact of Tobacco as a crop


Environmental Impacts

  • Deforestation and Land Degradation: Tobacco cultivation results in extensive deforestation, with around 50 million trees being felled annually for curing tobacco leaves. This practice depletes the soil, making it unsuitable for other crops. The plant significantly contributes to deforestation, with up to 5.4 kg of wood needed to process just 1 kg of tobacco.
  • Soil Erosion and Degradation: Intensive use of agrochemicals in tobacco farming leads to significant soil erosion and degradation, reducing soil fertility and structure.
  • Water Pollution: Using pesticides and fertilizers in tobacco farming and processing heavily pollutes water sources, negatively impacting aquatic ecosystems.
  • Air Pollution: Harmful gases, including carbon dioxide, are released during tobacco cultivation and processing, contributing to climate change and air pollution.
  • Resource Use and Waste Generation: Tobacco production demands substantial resources such as water, energy, and chemicals, which result in considerable waste and environmental harm.

Health Impacts

  • Occupational Risks: Tobacco farmers and workers face exposure to hazardous chemicals, leading to health issues like green tobacco sickness (GTS), which manifests as headaches, nausea, and other symptoms.
  • Respiratory and Skin Diseases: Exposure to toxic substances and pesticides in tobacco farming and processing can cause respiratory and skin diseases.
  • Cancer and Other Health Issues: Tobacco use is a leading risk factor for various cancers and other health issues, including lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.


Status of Tobacco in India


Prevalence of Tobacco Use

  • Estimated Number of Users: In India, the estimated number of tobacco users stands at 274.9 million. This includes 163.7 million people who use only smokeless tobacco, 68.9 million who are solely smokers, and 42.3 million who use both smoking and smokeless tobacco.
  • Prevalence among Adults: Over one-third of Indian adults, approximately 35%, use tobacco in some form. Among them, 21% use only smokeless tobacco, 9% are exclusive smokers, and 5% use both types of tobacco products.
  • Regional Variations: The prevalence of tobacco use varies widely across different states and union territories. For instance, the state of Mizoram has a tobacco use rate as high as 67%, whereas Goa has a much lower rate at 9%.

Production and Area Under Cultivation

  • Area Under Cultivation: India dedicates about 0.45 million hectares to tobacco cultivation, representing approximately 10% of the global land area used for growing tobacco.
  • Production Volume: In the fiscal year 2022, India produced over 189 million kilograms of flue-cured tobacco.

Major Tobacco-Producing States

  • Top States: The primary states involved in tobacco production include Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Telangana, and Bihar. Specifically, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh contribute approximately 45%, 20%, and 15% to India’s total tobacco production, respectively.

Employment and Economic Impact

  • Employment: The tobacco industry is a significant source of employment in India, employing around 36 million people in farming, processing, manufacturing, and exporting activities.
  • Economic Contribution: Tobacco considerably contributes to India’s economy, generating approximately Rs 4,402 crores in foreign exchange earnings and Rs 13,853 crores in excise revenue annually. The industry’s total contribution to the national economy is around Rs 18,255 crores.

Export Trends

  • Export Destinations: India exports tobacco products to over 115 countries. Key export destinations include Belgium, the Philippines, Egypt, Germany, Nepal, the USA, and Turkey.
  • Export Volumes: Between April 2023 and July 2023, India exported 49,157 tonnes of flue-cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco, valued at Rs 1,502 crore (approximately US$ 180.4 million). Additionally, during the same period, the country exported 84,745 tonnes of unmanufactured tobacco, valued at Rs 2,063 crore (approximately US$ 247.8 million)


Legal and Regulatory Framework to control Tobacco usage


Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003

  • Smoking Restrictions: Smoking is prohibited in public places and workplaces, except in designated smoking areas at airports, hotels with more than 30 rooms, and restaurants with a seating capacity of over 30.
  • Advertising Ban: The act bans most forms of tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (TAPS). However, it allows point-of-sale advertisements and some sponsorships with specific restrictions.
  • Health Warnings: Tobacco product packaging must include pictorial and text health warnings covering 40% of the front surface. The use of misleading terms like “light” and “low-tar” is prohibited.
  • Sales Restrictions: The sale of tobacco products to minors (under 18 years) is prohibited, as is the sale of tobacco products within a 100-yard radius of educational institutions.

National Tobacco Control Programme 

The National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) is an extensive initiative launched by the Government of India in 2007-08 to reduce tobacco-related diseases and deaths. The primary objectives of NTCP include:

  • Raising awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use
  • Reducing the production and supply of tobacco products
  • Ensuring effective enforcement of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003
  • Assisting individuals in quitting tobacco use
  • Promoting the implementation of tobacco prevention and control strategies recommended by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 

  • The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the first international treaty negotiated under WHO’s guidance. Adopted by the World Health Assembly on May 21, 2003, it came into force on February 27, 2005. The FCTC has been ratified by 182 countries, including 50 WHO European Member States.
  • This evidence-based treaty reaffirms everyone’s right to the highest standard of health and seeks to combat the global tobacco epidemic by reducing both the demand for and supply of tobacco. 

 Judicial Directions to control the Tobacco use

  • In 2017, the Rajasthan High Court implemented a ban on the use of plastic sachets for packaging gutka and pan masala. This measure effectively decreased the accessibility of these products and their attractiveness to youth.
  • Additionally, various High Courts have issued directives to authorities to prohibit the sale of all tobacco products within a 100-yard radius of educational institutions. This action aims to shield students from exposure to tobacco smoke and related products.


Way Forward 


  • Enact Comprehensive Tobacco Control Measures: India should enact comprehensive tobacco control measures that encompass all varieties of tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, and rigorously enforce these regulations.
  • Enhance Taxes and Prices: Increasing taxes and prices on tobacco products can effectively diminish consumption and generate revenue for tobacco control initiatives.
  • Prohibit Tobacco Advertising and Promotion: India should prohibit all types of tobacco advertising and promotion, encompassing sponsorships and product placements
  • Enforce Health Warnings: India should enforce conspicuous health warnings on tobacco products, incorporating graphic images and textual alerts, to enhance awareness about the hazards associated with tobacco use.
  • Switch Farmers to other alternative crops: For tobacco farmers operating on a large scale, the return on investment per rupee for jowar cultivation (1.84) surpasses that of tobacco (1.48). The government is also looking for alternative employment opportunities for farmers who are indulging in tobacco farming.


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Prelims Based Question


Q1. Consider the following statements with reference to Tobacco production:

  1. More than one-third of tobacco is produced by Gujrat.
  2. India is the largest producer and consumer of Tobacco in the world.

Choose the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a). 1 Only

(b). 2 Only

(c). Both 1 and 2

(d). Neither 1 nor 2




Mains Based Question


Q1. Despite several local and Global efforts, tobacco usage has been on the rise, especially among the young generation. What more can be done to contain this menace?


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