In comparison to the national percentage, Tamil Nadu has fewer people using tobacco products, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India 2009-2010. In Tamil Nadu, 24 per cent of men, and 8.4 per cent women use tobacco in some form or the other, in comparison to 47.9 per cent and 20.3 per cent, respectively at the national level.

The Tamil Nadu Factsheet of GATS India 2009-2010 was released in the city on Thursday by the Director of Public Health, R.T. Porkaipandian.

In the survey, conducted among adults aged 15 and above, 9.6 per cent of adults — including 19.1 per cent of males and 0.1 per cent of females — were said to be tobacco smokers.

The cigarette smoker category was at 6 per cent, and beedi smoker at 5.3 per cent of adults. Women are the largest consumers of smokeless tobacco, in chewable forms, at 8.4 per cent (men — 7.7 per cent).

While cigarette smoking is low in rural areas, the use of other forms of tobacco is higher (20 per cent) when compared to urban areas (12.5 per cent). Among most commonly-used tobacco products are cigarettes (6 per cent); followed by beedis (5.3 per cent) and betel quid tobacco usage at 4.7 per cent.

Tamil Nadu is the better State even in the region, only falling slightly behind the Union Territory of Puducherry. The southern prevalence for tobacco use is 24.1 per cent (16. 2 per cent for Tamil Nadu); smoking is 13.3 per cent (9.6 per cent) and use of chewable tobacco is 13.4 per cent (8.1 per cent).

Speaking to presspersons on the occasion, State Tobacco Control Officer P. Vadivelan said Tamil Nadu was among the more active State governments working to promote smoke-free environments and curb the purchase and sale of tobacco products in the market. Implementation of the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, has been vigorous in the State, not only in terms of fine collection, which is maximum in the State, but also in terms of building awareness.

A total of 6,076 schools have been declared ‘tobacco-free’ institution, and 1,351 colleges have been roped into the project as well. The target is to cover all educational institutions in the State by the end of the year. “We are focusing on schools primarily because that is where the smoking habit begins, in most cases,” Dr. Vadivelan said.

This includes implementation of the ban on sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions, ban on sale of tobacco products to minors, according to Prasanna Kannan, WHO Consultant, State Tobacco Control Cell. A crucial factor that was noted during the study — a large number of people were being exposed to second hand smoke: 26.9 per cent at the workplace and 21.1 per cent at public places, besides 9.9 per cent at home.