81 lakh Indians quit tobacco in the last seven years

81 lakh Indians quit tobacco in the last seven years

Almost 81 lakh Indians quit tobacco in the last seven years, showcasing the impact of the anti-tobacco campaigns undertaken by public health outfits.

The campaigns, however, had only a limited reach among people from poor socio-economic background as khaini (smokeless tobacco) and bidi continue to rule the roost in small town and the countryside, suggests the first set of results from India's biggest tobacco survey.

The prevalence of tobacco use decreased by 6% between 2009-10 and 2016-17, says the India-specific report from the second round of Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS-2). In 2009-10, as much as 34.6% of Indians was tobacco users. The number came down to 28.6% in 2016-17.

More and more people admitted they wished to quit tobacco use after seeing the warning messages and pictures on the packets.

The drop was seen in both smoking and smokeless category, but the extent of fall varied. For instance, among women consumers of smokeless tobacco the number dropped sharply from 18.4% in 2009-10 to 12.8% in 2016-17. But among the men, the reduction is less prominent – from 32.9% to 29.6%.

GATS is an international standard survey for systematically monitoring adult tobacco use (smoking and smokeless) and tracking key tobacco control indicators. It is a household survey of persons aged 15 and above conducted in 30 states and two Union Territories of India.

Between August 2016 and February 2017, as many 74,037 individuals were interviewed by the researchers from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai for the survey. The full report with state specific details are expected within a couple of months.

The National Health Policy 2017 has set the target of “relative reduction in prevalence of current tobacco use by 15% by 2020 and 30% by 2025”.

With a relative reduction of 17% in prevalence of current tobacco use since GATS-1, the new survey showed that tobacco control programmes are on track to acheive the targets set.

“The reduction is due to the tobacco control law and steps like 85% graphic health warnings, smoke free rules, gutka ban and higher tobacco taxes in some states,” said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, chief executive, Voluntary Health Association of India.

There is 6% reduction in the exposure to second hand smoke at public places like government buildings, public transport and restaurants.

The average daily expenditure incurred on last purchase of cigarette, bidi and smokeless tobacco is Rs 30, Rs 12.5 and Rs 12.8 respectively. The expenditure on cigarette has tripled and that on bidi and smokeless tobacco doubled since the last survey.

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