Public health experts have welcomed India's commitment to tobacco control made in the first South Asian Speakers' Summit on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that concluded in Bangladesh last week.
India has endorsed the 'Dhaka Declaration on SDG Action in South Asia' that has set the agenda for making the region tobacco free by 2030.
"As the country is grappling with shrinking health budgets, India's strategy to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases through controlling tobacco use is a welcome step," said K.R. Thankappan, the head of Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies here.
He said the need of the hour was to make "multi-sectoral efforts" to reduce tobacco use which killed one million Indians a year.
Endorsement of Dhaka Declaration has committed India to developing, strengthening and enforcing tobacco-control policies, legislation and regulations in line with the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
India has also agreed to work towards decreasing the affordability of all tobacco products by increasing tobacco taxes and endeavour to set aside revenue generated from tobacco taxes to support tobacco control efforts.
The Dhaka Declaration emerged after two days of deliberations by the parliament speakers of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka on January 30 and 31, 2016.
C.P.John, member, Kerala State Planning Board said tobacco use in different forms was a major threat to public health and development.
"The state should come forward in controlling tobacco use by strong enforcement and regular monitoring while the responsible citizenry should take the lead in educating the masses through wide public awareness programmes," he added.
Tobacco control has been included as a target under Goal 3 - Health and Well-being - of SDGs 2015-30.
It's notable that Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had termed tobacco as an "epidemic" in her address to the speakers' summit.
She had observed that in South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka) the estimated total number of tobacco users is 384 million, which accounts for over a third (34.8 percent) of the total tobacco users in the world (about 1.1 billion).
India will host the second meeting of South Asian Speakers' Forum in 2017.