UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | 31 May 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about the health and environmental impacts of tobacco consumption along with way ahead.

Syllabus: GS-II Health; GS-III Environmental cost

Tobacco crisis:

  • The second Global Adult Tobacco Survey estimated that 28.6% of all adults in India used tobacco in 2016-2017, second only to China.
    • The survey said 42.4% of men and 14.2% of women used tobacco – both the smokeless form, i.e. chewing tobacco, and smoked form, i.e. cigarettes and ‘bidis’.
  • In 1987, WHO marked ‘World No Tobacco Day’ to bring attention to the ill-effects of tobacco.
    • ‘Poisoning our planet’ is the theme for May 31 this year, in an effort to highlight the ill-effects of tobacco on the environment.
  • In 2021, smoking killed about 8 million people. But tobacco is not just a bane on human health.
  • According to the WHO, 600 million trees are chopped down annually to make cigarettes, 84 million tonnes of CO2 emissions are released into the atmosphere, and 22 billion litres of water are used to make cigarettes.
    • In addition to the environmental costs of production, cigarette butts, packaging, plastic pouches of smokeless tobacco, and electronics and batteries associated with e- cigarettes pollute our environment.
  • India, the world’s second largest producer of tobacco, produces about 800 million kg annually.
    • About 6 million farmers and 20 million farm labourers work in tobacco farming across 15 States (Central Tobacco Research Institute).
    • Although farming of tobacco only contributes to 1% of GDP as per one study, the direct health expenditure on treating tobacco-related diseases alone accounts for 5.3% of total health spending in India in a year (WHO).
    • Despite this, farming of tobacco cannot be stopped without serious economic consequences and/or social disruption. 

Way Ahead:

  • Over 90% of adults in India, across strata, identify tobacco as being harmful.
    • Additional gains in overcoming the ill-effects of tobacco are therefore unlikely to come from more awareness campaigns alone.
  • The forestry community has devised solutions and instruments to incentivise the reduction of deforestation through the use of carbon credits.
  • With the surge in new commitments to zero carbon from the international commodity sector, companies are putting pressure on their supply chains to transition to sustainable practices and reduce deforestation.
    • This is driving new interest in sourcing from sustainable landscapes and buying high- quality forest carbon credits.
  • In 2016, one of the largest cigarette companies pledged to begin transitioning its customers away from tobacco to smoke-free products. By 2019, it reported it was spending 98% of its research and development budget to back up this goal. 


  • Educating potential consumers to not consume tobacco, supporting consumers in their journey to quit, and incentivising the industry to help consumers and the planet will protect not just our lungs, but also the air we breathe. 

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