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Is speaking against smoking an offence !

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Whether raising voice against tobacco considered a crime in India?

Last week the Ministry of Home affairs took a tough decision by cancelling the licence of Public Health Foundation of India under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.As an aftermath of this cancellation, PHFI would be restricted from receiving from any foreign funds. PHFI was launched in 2006 by the Ex-Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh with a vision to strengthen India’s public health institutional and systems capability and provide knowledge to achieve better health outcomes for all.The main reason for the ban was given as,violation of FCRA norms through carrying out its advocacy work against tobacco.The allegations also include lobbying with parliamentarians and media for the anti-tobacco lobby.

Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) is considered to be one of the pioneer institutions that runs many of tobacco related research and anti-tobacco awareness camps through information education and communication and community mobilization. Additionally,The NGO provides technical assistance to central and state governments in several areas of engagement including HIV prevention, access to drugs, tobacco control and immunization, etc.Many of these activities are in coordination with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

In context of public health,cigarette and other tobacco products are considered to be fatal to humans.There are abundant evidence showing smoking cigarettes leads to cancer and other deadly diseases.. India is the second largest consumer of tobacco with 35% of adults above 15 years being chronic tobacco users. Apart from that,smoking alone causes approximately 1 million deaths annually.Tobacco smoke is responsible for 9% of deaths in India annually,out of which 7% due to smoking and 2% due to second hand smoking.Additionally,India also tops the list of having the highest number of oral cancer cases in the world and 90% of which are related to tobacco use.The government of India has taken several measures to curb the tobacco use such as Framework convention for tobacco control(2004),MPOWER(2008),COTPA(2003) etc.PHFI have been a key player in assisting government in framing and implementing some of the above laws.So here the major concerns which arises are,whether raising voice against tobacco considered a crime in India?Does personal interests weighs more than public interest in India?

This is a plead from citizens of India along with the whole public health fraternity towards the honorable PMO India Mr Narendra Damodardas Modi , seeking to intervene in this issue and resolve the issue immediately.Furthermore,we also urge the honorable PM to create a friendly environment to PHFI and other NGOs to move towards achieving health for all/universal health coverage.

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