A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that was also reported in Mint on Thursday has said that one million Indians a year will die from smoking. That means one out of every 10 deaths in the country.
Such data is likely to send the government into a flurry of hasty activity. The typical response, so far, has been to raise taxes on cigarettes (without touching the influential bidi industry) and to attempt educating smokers on the ill effects of puffing away. Now, the health minister may even restart his quixotic campaign against smoking in films.
The effectiveness of public policy should not be judged by its good intentions. What matters is how well it meets its stated goals. There is, as yet, little proof to show that either taxes or moralizing have been very effective. We need new ideas.
The study also says that only 2% of Indian adults have quit smoking. It is indeed difficult to kick the habit. The trick would be to make smoking unattractive at the point of entry. It would be too late after that.