Don’t promote unhealthy products just to boost revenue: Health ministry to railways

April 7, 2017, 9:27 AM

NEW DELHI: Even as the Indian Railways is gearing up to allow brand promotion of trains and stations to augment revenues, the Union health ministry has asked Indian Railways not to provide a platform for unhealthy products like tobacco, alcohol, sugar sweetened beverages and those with high salt content.

“Any move to further promote products that have negative health externalities will be counter-productive and will scuttle government’s ongoing efforts to reduce/regulate consumption of alcohol, tobacco, food containing high fats, sugar and salt (HFSS), sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) including aerated and non-aerated beverages,” health secretary C K Mishra wrote in a letter to railway board chairman A K Mittal.Under the new policy, awaiting approval from the railway board, a company can buy consolidated media rights for branding the entire train or a station.

It can then advertise both inside and outside the bogies.

Raising concerns about how promotion of such products could increase the burden of diabetes, hypertension and cancer, Mishra said advertisement of such products will result in unfavourable health and economic consequences for individuals, families and the nation.

India could pay an economic cost of $4.58 trillion between 2012-2030 due to non-communicable diseases, while cardiovascular diseases alone could account for a $2.17 trillion. In 2013, the four common non-communicable diseases – cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, accounted for 3.1 million premature deaths constituting 55% of mortality in that year in the age group at 30-69 years.

India has the second largest number of tobacco users (275 million or 35% of all adults in India) in the world and of these at least 10 lakh die every year from tobacco-related diseases.

Tobacco-related diseases kill about 2,500 Indians daily. It is estimated that about 5,500 youth and children (as young as 8 years old), initiate tobacco use daily, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey.
While the Union health ministry has been trying to reduce tobacco consumption by stringent advertisement norms, pictorial warnings as well as higher taxes, of late it has also focused efforts towards reducing intake of food products high on salt and fats as well as sugary beverages.
Source – Times Of India

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