Tobacco Smoking in India

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on

Smoking is already a major health problem in India, one that will worsen if we do not take action. Nearly ten lakh deaths are attributed to smoking alone in India each year. About one-third of Indian men now smoke; as many women as men do. The risks for both are the same. The majority of tobacco-related deaths occur in middle age and not just in old age.

In India, it is common to chew tobacco products such as gutka. Over half of all oral cancer deaths result from chewing, and women are particularly hard hit. Younger people are chewing more, and precancerous conditions such as mouth lesions are on the rise.

Chewing is common among both men and women all over the world. The percentage of people chewing tobacco products in India is 31% for men and 19% for women, but the number is much higher in Bihar at 69% and 22% for men and women, respectively. Pregnant women who smoke lead to low-birth-weight babies, stillbirths, and birth defects.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India 2010, chewing is more prevalent among the poorest. The poorest 30 percent of people chew tobacco products. The middle income is 25 percent, and the highest income is 15 percent. Oral cancer is more likely to kill women who chew tobacco. In the 30-69 age group, three percent of women and one percent of men are at the relative risk of dying from chewing. Oral cancer has a higher relative risk of death among women, but men have a higher background death rate, so the absolute risks are more equal.

Kishanganj has 1,00,000 men ages 15-69, of whom 50,000 will die from smoking. Seventy percent of people will die between the ages of 15 and 69, while thirty percent will die in old age. In 2015, there were 59% more men who smoked in Bihar than in previous years. 612 lakh men who smoke cigarettes lose 10 years of life whereas 687 lakh men who smoke bidis lose 6 years of life. The use of tobacco is not only a public health threat, but also an economic burden on our country’s health care systems, forcing them to spend a lot of money treating diseases that are largely preventable. In addition to the cost of treating serious diseases like cancer or stroke, tobacco use also affects individual families.

28,000 Kishanganj residents are forced into poverty by tobacco use each year. Almost Rs. 11 crores are spent each year on tobacco in the district. Tobacco control laws are implemented in part by the police. A staggering 350 police officers will be killed by tobacco at ages 15-69 out of 1000 who smoke. Stopping smoking is one of the most important things smokers can do to extend their lives and improve their health. Nonetheless, India has very low quit rates of 5%. Nearly all the risks can be avoided by quitting by 40 and preferably earlier. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air decreases and oxygen levels increase after quitting within 12 hours. The risk of heart attacks drops and lung functions improve within three months. With 1 year, the risk of sudden heart attack is cut in half, and with 5 years, the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is halved. According to Section 4 of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), smoking in public places is prohibited wherever the general public has access, whether by right or otherwise, but does not include open spaces. Additionally, smoking is prohibited in open areas that are visited by the public such as auditoriums, stadiums, stations, and bus stops. The fine for smoking in public places can range from Rs 200 to Rs 500.