Describing the availability and affordability of low-cost and locally-produced tobacco products as a "formidable challenge in India", WHO noted that "taxes are low for the forms of tobacco that are most commonly used".

"There is a need to develop a comprehensive tax policy for all tobacco products so that they are taxed at similar rates taking into account both price elasticity and income elasticity of demand, as well as inflation and changes in household income," the UN agency said.

According to WHO, nearly a million deaths occur every year in India due to tobacco-related diseases with the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use (in 2011 for people aged 35-69 years) amounting to a staggering Rs 1,04,500 crore -- impacting not only the human but also the fiscal health of the country.

India is a leading tobacco-producing country and has the provision of economically viable alternative vocations for those involved in tobacco cultivation and bidi production, WHO further stated.

"Early ratification of the 'Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products' will provide the country with a strong tool to tackle illicit trade in tobacco products," it said.

Besides, to protect health policies from commercial and other vested interests of tobacco industry, India urgently needs to implement Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), including Code of Conduct.     

It should be mentioned that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) constituted an Expert Committee to review and suggest amendments to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA), 2003, to further its commitment to tobacco control.

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