Category Archives: Public Health


PTC News Discussion – Scrap MoU with Monsanto

Discussion on PTC news w.r.t. why Punjab Government must scrap the MoU it has signed with Monsanto. Hemant Goswami and Umendra Dutt argue their case.


Hookah/ Sheesha Bars illegal – High Court

Putting an end to the abuse of Nicotine, thriving across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh in the name of serving Hookah/ Sheesha/ Water-Pipe, the Punjab and Haryana High court has ordered closure of all such outlets besides creation of a task force to check the menace in future too.

Acting on a “Public Interest Litigation (PIL)” by the NGO Burning Brain Society and its chairman Hemant Goswami, the Divisional Bench of Chief Justice A. K. Sikri and Justice R. K. Jain disposed off the Writ Petition with the directions to States of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to constitute a permanent task force for monitoring the abuse of Nicotine in chemical form which is being used by Hookah Bars and others. The court also directed to register criminal cases against the violators and take all appropriate steps as required in accordance with the law.

Hemant Goswami, chairman of Burning Brain Society, who appeared and argued the case in person pleaded that various outlets in Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana were serving Hookah/ Sheesha to youngsters which contained Nicotine which was not only noxious/ hazardous but also fatal. Goswami pointed out that just 30 milligram of Nicotine was sufficient to cause death of a healthy human being in under one minute which is why it was a deadly poison fit to be regulated under the Poisons Act. The Insecticide Act categorised Nicotine as an insecticide and the Hazardous Chemical Rules 1986 also label Nicotine as a hazardous and toxic chemical.

During the course of hearing, over the years, the High court had passed many enabling orders and even constituted a task force, resulting in closure of all Hookah/ Sheesha outlets across Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana. Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh also registered many criminal cases against outlets and people trading in Hookah/ Sheesh and the ingredient used in Hookah.

The High Court order, which was reserved for November 5, 2012 and has been made available today holds that, “there is no doubt that many Hukkah bars are serving tobacco molasses containing Nicotine, which is clearly illegal and entails penal consequences.”

Expressing satisfaction, Hemant told, “The case against the mushrooming of Hookah/ Sheesha outlets was filed in the year 2007 and it took five years and nearly 45 hearings to finally put a permanent end to the menace of Nicotine, Hookah and Sheesha outlets in the region.”

Hemant Goswami – The Change Catalyst

Hemant Goswami, the Change Catalyst

Nationalising tobacco industry; a possible way to control tobacco

tobacco-kills-25001  Many found it an unusual conclusion (and some apparently radical) when speaking at the “Conference on Strategy Planning on Tobacco Control (in May 2006)” I suggested that “Nationalisation of the Tobacco Industry” is a possible solution to tackle the tobacco menace. Many jaws dropped and I could clearly see many mouths wide open on this suggestion; a few also labelled me as “Removed from the reality” and suggested me to become “Practical.”

For me, this “Nationalisation” option was not an out-of-the-blues impromptu bombshell but rather a well thought out and deliberated suggestion. I had carefully pondered over the possible options after considering the actual state of affairs and the condition of governance in India before arriving at the suggested conclusion of taking over of the tobacco industry by the government as one of the most practical ways of containing tobacco. Some may not agree; I am willing to provide all of them reasons on how and why this is one of the best options for India.

It is impossible to restrain the profit minded tobacco companies just by enforcing legislation or other such methods so we have to find more effective and practical ways to stop the five million annual death-toll due to tobacco. The industry is incorrigible and for them profit will always weigh over the human lives. Even with the most benevolent intentions, it is a foolish assumption (I think it is) that the tobacco industry will work for it’s own de-growth. If tomorrow, cocaine and marijuana becomes even partially legal many greedy hounds will happily jump in to sell that too. We have no phase-out plan for tobacco so that’s a good thing for the industry; it sends a clear message that they can continue doing what they are doing and that tobacco will remain in the society for time immemorial.

A phased de-growth can only be worked out by the governments and not the industry. For this it is pertinent that the government takes over the tobacco industry under its complete control by nationalising tobacco and working on a fade-off plan.

This can be done by chalking out a 20 years phase-out plan with a targeted and properly planned 5 to 10 percent de-growth for the tobacco industry every year. After the premeditated period of 20 years the tobacco industry will shrink to the size of less than one sixth of the present size and then it could be extinguished. This kind of planning is also in the interest of the highly exploited tobacco farmers as the earning from tobacco during the intervening period can go to these marginalised farmers and thereby enable a scientifically phased shifting of the tobacco crop with other cash rich crops. Currently all the earning generated by exploiting tobacco farmers and by tobacco sales are siphoned by a handful of rich tobacco manufacturers and individuals but after nationalisation of the industry a part of the tobacco earning could also be used to treat tobacco related ailments and to meet other health care costs.

Who loose if tobacco industry is taken over by the government?

Public; No. All sections of the society stand to gain out of it.
Tobacco users; No; tobacco would be still available as it is on date; there is no proposal to ban it.
Farmers; No; rather they stand to gain by the additional revenue and by better wages if the government takes over the industry.
Government; No; there shall be greater revenue now available besides by phasing out tobacco, the health care cost will also start coming down.
Share holders; No; system to pay them back the share value over a period of time can be worked out and no economic loss would be caused.

So it’s only a win-win situation barring some minor losses to around 10-20 people around the world who illegally siphon most of the tobacco money.

In a civilised society why should any individual be allowed to profit from someone else’s miseries and death? When for a relatively minor violation affecting human health like selling pest infested food articles, etc. one is put behind bars (for years) under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, then how can we turn a nelsons’ eye to a deadly product like tobacco?

The other urgent requirement (For which we are working since the last two years [now 5]) is that of licensing the tobacco trade. When even benevolent medicines are sold only through licensed chemists then why should a fatal drug delivery product, “Tobacco” be openly sold? Immediate licensing of all tobacco related activities will add billions of rupees to the government kitty and also be highly helpful in regulating most of the tobacco related demand side violations.

It is a historical mistake that tobacco became a legal product but now is the time to rectify the mistake. We have all the facts, rationale and means to correct one of the biggest mistakes of the civilised world. Let’s work for it.

Hemant Goswami

Why should tobacco remain a consumer product????

cigarettesI am often intrigued by the fact that how come a consumer product which kills five million people worldwide still enjoys the status of a legal product. What perplexes me further is that even most of the hardcore tobacco control workers are still not thinking about ending tobacco as a consumer product and are not considering it as one of the options. Why? I have failed to understand this till now. Some believe that it can not be done as tobacco is very much a part of day-to-day life, others parrot the tobacco companies rhetoric that there has to be “Freedom of choice” and still some others are so deeply involved in microscopic technicalities that they even fail to see what is the most obvious and basic. More so, even the international treaty on tobacco control (FCTC) fails to envisage an end date for tobacco and among its objectives does not consider phasing out/ending tobacco consumption. This is despite the fact that tobacco consumption and production is still increasing exponentially.

I am surprised as to how people can be misled with the syllogistically false association of “Freedom of choice” with “tobacco consumption.” If tobacco consumption is just a question of freedom of choice then the same “Freedom of choice” argument also exists with consumption of “Opium,” “Marijuana,” “Smack,” “Ecstasy,” “Heroine,” and hundreds of other drugs and intoxicants. Logically then one should also have the right to market and consume any other drug or intoxicating substance and the consumer should have a right to choose whether or not he/she should consume it. Does that mean that the governments all over the world are infringing the rights of the common man by banning many harmful drugs and intoxicants? Extending it further, then “Freedom of choice” argument must also be valid with many other violent actions which are currently labelled as criminal actions. It is quite surprising that people (Including media) buy this argument without realising that there are individuals who are earning billions of dollars at the cost of millions of lives by forwarding such illogical arguments .

A number of possibilities exist to finally phase out tobacco as a consumer product in another 30 year. As the first step towards this direction, we must be receptive to all the ideas and opinions and should explore all the possibilities with an open mindset. Tobacco is not a life saving drug which needs to be sold in the interest of the mankind, neither is it an indispensable nutritious concoction which is essential for the humanity. Tobacco is clearly a harmful substance which kills its legal consumers (Who consume it as prescribed after paying for it). It was clearly an historical accident which made tobacco a legal product. This mistake needs to be rectified. The civilised world has seen many other similar social changes in the past 200 years and there is no reason why a social change regarding tobacco can not be achieved.

It is absolutely possible to finish tobacco as a consumer product and it must be done now.


Hemant Goswami