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Tobacco purchase age may be raised to 25 years: Official
Saturday June 7, 2014 10:48 PM, IANS

The Union Health Ministry is considering raising the minimum age for purchase of tobacco products in the country from 18 years to 25 years, an official said here Friday.

Lov Verma, the health and family welfare secretary, said that "Based on the recommendations being received by the government, it (the ministry) is considering writing to the various state governments regarding the same.

"Since it is a state subject we are considering writing to the state governments on the same based on the recommendations being received," Verma said at the release of "An empirical study of India's fiscal policies against tobacco: A state level analysis" here.

"Nearly six million people are being killed due to tobacco consumption. So every six seconds in the world one person is dying due to tobacco use, accounting for one in 10 adult deaths," he added.

The study, by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), aims to highlight the need for a health-focused fiscal policy for tobacco among other things. The study was funded by International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

According to the Report on Tobacco Control in India, 2004, annually eight to nine lakh deaths can be attributed to tobacco use in India, said Verma.

"In addition, 50 percent of cancers in males and about 20 percent of cancers in females can be directly attributed to tobacco use," he added.

Quoting the study, Economic Burden of Tobacco Related Diseases in India, Verma said: "The global economic cost attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India in 2011, for persons aged 35-69 years, amounted to Rs.1,04,500 crore -- out if which 16 percent was direct cost and 84 percent was indirect cost."

"Banning tobacco overnight is not the solution as there are a lot of other issues that need to be addressed.

"Banning would lead to displacement of many labourers who produce tobacco products. It has to be a gradual process," he said.

The key findings of the study state that a 10 percent increase in cigarette prices will lead to almost a three percent decrease in consumption and a seven percent increase in government revenues.

It also said that cigarette excise can be increased by as much as 370 percent of present levels, leading to a 54 percent decline in consumption and 115 percent increase in revenue.

"The current tax rates of tobacco products are not only low, but the tax structure of tobacco products are complex and tax governance poor.

"As a result, tobacco taxes and therefore prices have not deterred tobacco consumption.

"Significant potential exists to hike tax rates in India to reduce tobacco consumption and mop up revenue to the government which is presently fiscally-challenged," said Sakthivel Selvaraj, senior public health specialist, economics and financing, PHFI.

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