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India Reaffirms Commitment To WHO Treaty Amid Opposition From Country’s Billion-Dollar Tobacco Industry

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On Tuesday, Nov. 1, India reaffirmed its commitment to a World Health Organization (WHO) tobacco-control treaty, in spite of the lobby from its $11 billion industry opposing some measures in the said treaty, which will be discussed at a conference dated Nov. 7-12.

The event will take place near New Delhi, and representatives from roughly 180 countries will attend the only global anti-tobacco treaty called Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The aim of this accord is to inhibit tobacco use, which is responsible for approximately 6 million deaths per year, out of which 1 million are from India.

According to Reuters, the tobacco industry groups lobbying the government with letters and signature campaigns to safeguard the farmers' interests aimed to ensure that the propositions at the conference would be reasonable.

The Tobacco Institute of India (TII), which is the main mechanism of the Indian tobacco industry, declared Sept. 28, in a government letter that there exists no obligation for the FCTC to comply with the provisions. The letter accused the legality of the country's implementing the treaty, asking the Delhi High Court to force the government to allow farmers to be present at the upcoming conference.

While one of the judges declared being inclined to consider the proposition, it didn't rule on the other requests. Shortly, there came an official response on behalf of the government, with a notice published in a number of Indian newspapers containing the intention to apply the treaty's provisions.

On Thursday, Oct. 27, roughly 1,000 tobacco farmers employed silent protests outside the federal health ministry and the WHO regional office, in an attempt to persuade the government into boycotting the conference.

The possible outcomes resulting from the conference's provisions, in the event of implementation, could cause the tobacco industry as much as $784 billion just this year, according to Euromonitor International estimates.

This is not the only conflict the tobacco industry has with the federal government in 2016. Earlier this year, a rule requesting manufacturers to print bigger health warnings on packages has caused dissatisfactions among the producers and tobacco representatives.

In a previous letter, a group of traditional cigarette manufacturers tried to convince the prime minister, Narendra Modi and his government to make sure that the health ministry will not assume any clear anti-tobacco position, before or after the conference, as it would massively impact the very profitable industry.

India pays up to $16 billion annually for tobacco-related diseases, according to a BMJ Global Health estimate.

Aside from the generic negative health outcomes of smoking, the habit is also associated with permanent DNA damage, according to new studies. Among the most recent attempts to help people quit smoking is encouraging them to walk a long distance in order to buy cigarettes, which has been proven effective in a recent study.

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