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While the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered commercial activity in many parts of the world, the tobacco industry continues to use familiar strategies to defend its interests, regardless of the human cost of its activities. Not only is the annual death toll from tobacco many times higher than the death and disability so far from COVID-19, but tobacco use is a risk factor for worse outcomes for people infected by the virus. The tobacco industry’s impact during the pandemic is therefore twofold: it places an enormous existing strain on healthcare systems – particularly in low and middle income countries that can least afford it; and it likely magnifies the impact of COVID-19 itself. While the tobacco industry is faring far better than it should in such extraordinary times, it is also suffering some significant damage. In this issue, we look at the mixed fortunes of the industry in different countries, along with issues such as plain packaging and menthol products – which both pre-date, and will likely outlast, the pandemic.
India: COVID-19 a game changer for smokeless tobacco?
India has introduced a range of restrictions to contain the potential for smokeless tobacco use to spread COVID-19. Initiated by two districts, Arwal and Supaul, the state of Bihar has spearheaded local efforts to use tobacco control efforts to contain COVID-19. This has been achieved through a series of measures, building on its existing leadership in this area. Previously, the state government has withstood strong pushback from the tobacco industry in its protracted battle to regulate chewing tobacco. Using a national food safety regulation, the state government has issued an order comprehensively banning the sale and manufacture of (smokeless tobacco products) gutka and paan masala.
The intervention on …
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