When Columbus and his crew encountered the Native Americans inhaling the smoke of burning Tobacco, they introduced the same to Europe and the rest of the world. Tobacco was the first plant exported to a worldwide market from Americas from 1500s and it has been grown by Native Americans for more then 5000 years. Global tobacco Industry sells around 6 trillion cigarettes every year, China is the biggest consumer of cigarettes about 45% of the global total. After China, the ten countries that consume the largest number of cigarettes are Russia, the U.S., Japan, Indonesia, India, Brazil, Ukraine, Turkey, Korea and Italy. India is the second largest producer of tobacco in the world and ITC limited is the pioneer for India’s tobacco crop. India has different types of tobacco verities i.e. Virginia, Burly and native /oriental tobacco. Tobacco board of India is a government organization which involves in regulating the crop and developing the tobacco Industry.
Tobacco is the hungry man’s food, chilly man’s fire, sad man’s cordial, bachelor’s friend, lonely man’s companion, busy man’s repose: it’s a generic complimentary statement by tobacco lovers. Matter of fact, Tobacco is responsible for 1 in 10 adult deaths and it kills more than 5 million people per year. The World Health Organization warned that if the same consumption patterns continue, more than 8 million people will die per year by 2030. Smoking tobacco is a fatal addiction; it keeps the life at risk…. not only the one who is smoking but also every one around. Everybody has the same questions, why farmers are growing tobacco even that is harm for human health and why governments are allowing tobacco cultivation even lot of health organizations and social groups advocating a ban on tobacco smoking.
Smoking is a social problem; the problem should be dealt with public awareness. But tobacco cultivation is a part of farming system; it is legally cultivated agriculture crop and globally trading commodity. Tobacco is the best cash crop among all cash crops… in terms of high value returns and suitable to most environments, on top that it’s a labor intensive crop, so it definitely improves the socioeconomic conditions of rural areas and the quality of farmers’ life. Sale of the crop is also assured and it’s sold by negotiable price through government operated auction floors. As per economic surveys, the tobacco farmers monthly income is higher than the non – tobacco farmers. Almost 15 million people are involved in Indian tobacco industry, the tobacco contribution to India’s GNP is about 10%.
Indian tobacco farmers have not influenced by the anti smoking campaigns, neither threaten tobacco cultivation nor promote them to leave the crop. They simply grow the tobacco as a part of the cultivation and more over its high return cash crop.In spite of Indian government has been implementing ban on smoking in public places and a ban on underage sales, tobacco consumption and production has been increasing. The consumption pattern in India is: 85% share goes to tobacco products like Bidi, Snuff and chewing and rest of 15% is cigarettes consumption. Despite the just 15% cigarette consumption generates 75% of taxable tobacco revenue and 25% from the other forms of tobacco products which is 85% market share, since the taxes are more on cigarettes comparatively on traditional tobacco products. Major Indian tobacco market is occupied by traditional products which are unorganized sector and cottage industries, so the government authorities are difficult to enforce the taxes on them.
As per my understanding, young &urban population is consuming the cigarettes and adults & rural population is consuming non-cigarette form of tobacco products and worldwide the non – cigarette form of consumption has been increasing. Tobacco consumption is dangerous to health; no one is going to deny that but the government should educate the citizens about the risk factors and at the same time it should protect the poor farmers’ interests and economic strength of the country; we need lot R&D in tobacco in the direction of low –nicotine and organic tobacco crops. The taxes on cigarettes should not be increased because the consumption pattern will be shifted to non- cigarette form which is more harmful to health. I hope they won’t increase in coming budget.