Cigarettes is displacing bidi - the number of male smokers continues to rise: Study finds

Government must increase taxes in the upcoming budget.
Jaipur, The number of men smoking tobacco in India rose by more than one-third to 10.8 crores  between 1998 and 2015, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ Global Health. The study also found that cigarettes were replacing the traditional bidi possibly due to increasing income levels in India.  The total number of smokers is increasing due to population growth. The study found that the number of men smoking any type of tobacco at ages 15–69 years rose by about 2.9 crores or 36%, from 7.9 crores in 1998 to 10.8 crores in 2015, representing an average annual increase of about 17 lac male smokers.
Dr, P. C. Gupta, Director. Healis Sekhsaria Institute for public Health and an author of this study, remarked that the overall age adjusted smoking prevalence at ages 15-69 years declined modestly from 27% in 1998 to 24% in 2010, most likely due to some smoking control policies such as ban on smoking in public places, but the total number rose due to population growth.  Also, he said that cigarettes are steadily displacing traditional bidis. By 2015 there were roughly equal numbers of men ages 15-69 years smoking cigarettes or bidis: approximately 6.1 crores Indian adult men smoked cigarettes (4 crores exclusively) and 6.9 crores smoked bidis (4.8 crores exclusively).  These numbers must be brought down to improve public health in India
According to the World Health Organisation,raising the tax on tobacco is the single most effective intervention to lower smoking rates and to deter future smokers.
China is the only country in the world with more smokers than India. In both countries, tobacco taxes have not kept pace with the increased affordability of cigarettes. In 2010 smoking caused about 10 lac deaths or 10% of all deaths in India, with about 70% of those deaths occurring between the ages of 30 and 69, what should be the prime of their lives, said Dr. Jha, a professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

Key findings for sub-populations:

·         Men age 15–29 have about a 30% higher smoking prevalence than in 1998, and by 2015 there were 1.26 crore more smokers at these ages than there were in 1998.
·         Young adult men prefer cigarettes: cigarettes become four times more prevalent over this time period, while bidi smoking prevalence fell.

·         The highest prevalence of any smoking in men age 15–69 was in illiterate men in both 1998 and 2010. Among illiterate men, the prevalence of cigarette smoking rose most sharply, by about 3.6 times.
·         By contrast, among men with Grade 10 or more education, the prevalence of bidi or any smoking fell, but still rose modestly for cigarettes.

·         The number of smokers rose about 68% from 1.9 to 3.1 crores in urban India and about 26% from 6.1 to 7.7 crore in rural areas.
·         Between 1998 and 2010, among rural men, the prevalence of cigarette smoking increased 2.8 fold and there were 3 crore more cigarette smokers by 2015. In the same time period, among urban men, the prevalence of cigarette smoking increased 1.6 fold.
·         Bidi smoking prevalence fell modestly in both rural and urban areas for most age groups.

·         At ages 15-69, there were about 1.1 crore women who smoked (about one-tenth of the total of male smokers).
·         Reassuringly, smoking prevalence does not seem to be rising in young women: the smoking prevalence in adult women born after 1960 was about half of the prevalence in women born before 1950.
·         By contrast, there are few intergenerational changes in smoking prevalence in men at these ages.
This paper looked at smoking trends in India between 1998-2010 and made forward projections to 2015. It used 3 large scale nationally representative surveys namely Special Fertility and Mortality Survey (1998), Sample Registration Survey- Baseline data (2004) and Global Adult Tobacco Survey (2010) covering about 1.4 crore residents from 25 lac households.

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