Beedi giving way for cigarettes as Indians' purse gets fatter

61 million Indian men smoke cigarettes
Last Updated 26 February 2016, 19:50 IST

 Between 1998 and 2010, a large number of Indians have changed their smoking habits by shifting from beedi to cigarettes, thanks to increasing prosperity.

As a result, the share of bidi and cigarette among Indian smokers in 2015 is almost same as beedis are slowly leaving the space for aspirational Indians, found a new study on Indian smoking trends.

Notwithstanding the anti-tobacco campaigns by the government, the number of men smoking tobacco in India rose by almost 36 % — from 79 million in 1998 to almost 108 million in 2015 — showing an increase of 1.7 million male smokers every year.

But the gap between beedi and cigarette narrowed considerably as approximately 61 million Indian adult men were found smoking cigarettes (40 million exclusively) whereas 69 million smoked bidis (48 million exclusively) in 2015. Even a decade ago, the gap was far too wide.

Between 1998 and 2010, among rural men, the prevalence of cigarette smoking increased by 2.8 fold, replacing beedi. In the same period, cigarette smoking in the urban area increased by 1.6 fold. 

Bidi smoking prevalence fell modestly in both rural and urban areas for most age groups. “In India, the number of smokers continues to rise and the cigarette is displacing beedi,” said Prakash C Gupta, director, Healis-Seskaria Institute of Public Health in Mumbai.

Young adult men prefer cigarettes, which have become four times more prevalent over this time period.  Among illiterate men, too, the prevalence of cigarette smoking rose 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 study carried by Gupta along with researchers from the University of Toronto, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, World Health Organisation and International Institute of Population Studies, Mumbai was published on Friday .

“In 2010, smoking caused about 1 million deaths or 10% of all deaths in India,” said Prabhat Jha, a professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and one of the researchers involved in the study.

(Published 26 February 2016, 19:50 IST)

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