Every second, smoking kills one person in the world. According to a WHO report published in 2000, 15,000 people die every year in Nepal because of cigarette smoking. Nepal stands ahead in countries with female smokers. The world celebrated anti-tobacco day this week and while various anti-smoking awareness programs have been conducted in Nepal as well, the impact remains limited.
The Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital was established by Nepal Cancer Relief Society and the state runs the BP Memorial Cancer Hospital in Bharatpur. But these two institutions are not enough to combat the impact of smoking. The society has been conducting awareness programs in 42 districts through its branches, and plans to establish cancer hospitals in all five regions. Operations have already begun in Lagankhel and Butwal.
A fund has also been established for anti-tobacco activities whereby one paisa from every cigarette is contributed to the fund and so far Rs 450 million has been collected. Ironically, the government recently provided Rs 270 million to support Janakpur Cigarette Factory. The state has to shun this duplicity and look to provide alternate employment to the people involved in the tobacco industry.
In the long run, we need to move towards being a tobacco-free country. Bhutan has set an example by implementing strict anti-smoking laws. We need to raise awareness, prohibit sale and distribution of tobacco and take action against cigarette manufacturers. A bill for tobacco control is expected to be implemented next month but the strength of the tobacco mafia preventing its implementation cannot be underestimated.