After BJP lawmaker Dilip Gandhi’s claim that an ‘India-specific’ study was needed to prove that tobacco caused cancer, another member of the parliamentary panel looking into the provisions of the law that governs tobacco consumption, has come out in support of his embattled colleague. “Why can’t doctors explain why chain smokers don’t get cancer?”, asked Shyam Charan Gupta, a member of the parliamentary panel of subordinate legislation chaired by Gandhi. The only difference with Gupta, however, is that he has a direct interest in the tobacco business. By his own admission, Gupta’s beedi company has an annual turnover of Rs 200-250 crore.
The lawmaker’s comments arrived after the Centre decided to defer its April 1 deadline for increasing the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products. The conflict of interest is there for all to see. The beedi baron must recuse himself from the panel because his business interests come directly in conflict with his role as a lawmaker, trying to formulate legislation for tobacco consumption in India. To further add meat to his defence, Gupta said, “Sugar is also harmful and causes diabetes - no one can stop that”. It is a bizarre position to take because scientific studies have proven that sugar possesses high calorie content that gives energy to your body.
Health hazards only arise from excessive consumption. With tobacco, however, even consuming second hand smoke poses a threat to one’s health. Moreover, a research paper by CS Ramesh of the Mumbai-based Tata Memorial Centre stated that, “the cost of tobacco consumption exceeds the total combined revenue and capital expenditure [budget estimates] by the government and the State on medical and public health, water supply and sanitation.”
It is sad that a senior lawmaker is so poorly informed about the facts pertaining to the harmful effects of tobacco. World over industries have admitted that their products are harmful for general consumption. These companies have therefore agreed to adopt a pack warning as part of their legal obligations.