Anti-tobacco campaigns by the government and stringent pictorial warnings on packages of smoking and chewable tobacco products seem to have increased the number of smokers in India who wish to quit smoking.
“Studies carried out after the implementation of pictorial package warnings in Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Thailand consistently show that graphic warnings have significantly increased people’s awareness of the harms of tobacco use,” according to the World Health Organisation.
In India, the world’s second-largest producer and consumer of tobacco after China, over 241 million people are estimated to be using tobacco in some form or the other.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2009-2010, nearly 35 per cent of Indians (47 per cent of men and 20.3 per cent of women) are currently using some form of tobacco.
However, around 38 per cent of cigarette smokers, 29.3 per cent of bidi users and 33.8 per cent of those who use smokeless tobacco were thinking about quitting because of the warning labels on the products they use, says the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2009-2010.
According to the survey, conducted by the International Institute for Population Sciences in association with WHO and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 14 per cent adults in India currently smoke tobacco, while 25.9 per cent people used smokeless tobacco.
It also says that over 52 per cent people were exposed to second-hand smoke at home, while 29 per cent get exposed to it in public places.
However, the study found that 38.4 per cent smokers —— 38.3 per cent men and 38.9 per cent women —— have made an attempt to quit. The figure for users of smokeless tobacco was 35.5 per cent —— 38.8 per cent men and 29 per cent women.
Currently, the government has set aside Rs. 186 crore for the National Tobacco Control Programme in the 11th Five Year Plan. Of which it spends Rs. 25 crore on audio-visual publicity in the anti-tobacco propaganda.
A new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Tobacco Control, has said that mass media campaigns are “feasible” and can be used as “efficacious interventions for tobacco control in India“.
The study, which evaluated a six—week national media campaign targeted at smokeless tobacco users in 2009, found that the campaign affected tobacco users as intended, with over 70 per cent of smokers saying the campaign had made them stop and think.
Tobacco use is one of the biggest contributors to the epidemic of non-communicable diseases —— such as heart attack, stroke, cancer and emphysema —— which accounts for 63 per cent of all deaths, nearly 80 per cent of which occur in low— and middle—income countries.
Up to half of all tobacco users will eventually die of a tobacco—related disease, WHO has said, adding that “this year (2011), the tobacco epidemic will kill nearly six million people, including some 600,000 nonsmokers, who will die from exposure to tobacco smoke.”
“By 2030, it could kill 8 million,” it predicted.
India, where a person spends nearly Rs. 3,600 a year for buying tobacco products, is the second—largest producer of tobacco in the world after China.
Estimates suggest that India generates Rs. 35,000 crore annually in revenue from the tobacco industry. At the same time it’s also believed that the use of tobacco products like gutkha, cigarettes and bidis will be responsible for 13 per cent of all deaths in India by 2020.
Dr N K Pandey, Chairman and MD of Asian Institute of Medical Sciences at Faridabad, said it’s high time government and NGOs should intensify their campaigns to educate people about the harmful effects of tobacco by impactful packaging and labelling of tobacco products.
“Minor’s especially should not be allowed to sell or consume tobacco products. We need to also aggressively focus in helping people end their tobacco addiction,” he said.
Dr Manav Manchanda, a Respiratory Medicine expert at AIMS, said, “Though it was once considered fashionable to smoke, it is now looked down upon owing to the health risks for not only the smoker but also the person inhaling second-hand smoke.