HEALTH WATCH: Killer tobacco is alive and kicking in India – how to quit, any tobacco rehab programs in any city nearby ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY G.S. MUDUR
New Delhi, Oct. 19: A nationwide survey has suggested that one in three adults in India smokes or chews tobacco, very few quit and second-hand smoke remains a big problem, exposing gaps in the country’s tobacco control efforts.
The survey, covering 76,000 households from across the country, has also indicated that women smokers in India light up more cigarettes daily than men who smoke, although the prevalence of tobacco use and smoking is lower among women than among men.
Public health experts say the findings of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey-India highlight the mammoth scale of tobacco consumption — 196 million men and 77 million women, or nearly one in two men and one in five women, are tobacco users.
The findings suggest that several existing tobacco control laws, including a ban on smoking in public introduced two years ago, and a ban on sale of tobacco to minors remain poorly implemented.
The survey found teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 years buying tobacco products from stores and kiosks, and three in 10 adults were exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke in a public place during the month before the survey.
“These findings show the enormous tobacco challenge that India faces,” said Prabhat Jha, a public health researcher at the Centre for Global Health Research, the University of Toronto, Canada, who was not directly associated with the survey.
“The top priority on tobacco control for India should be to find ways to get its current tobacco users to quit — and the single most effective intervention to get people to quit is raising prices,” Jha told The Telegraph.
About 25 per cent tobacco users are smokers, the rest chew tobacco, rub tobacco-lime mixture on their teeth and gums, sniff tobacco or suck on hookahs, according to the GATS-India survey by the International Institute of Population Sciences, Mumbai.
“We see a very high prevalence of the use of smokeless tobacco,” said Faujdar Ram, director of the IIPS, Mumbai, and leader of the survey team. “We urgently need special campaigns to discourage people from using smokeless tobacco.”
The survey found that 46 per cent of smokers and 45 per cent users of smokeless tobacco had plans to quit or had at least expressed their intention to quit. But here, too, the survey has identified gaps. “Those keen on quitting do not find support to lead them all the way to actual quitting,” Ram said.
Several Indian cities do have de-addiction clinics to assist tobacco users to give up the habit, but the numbers are too small, he said.
While prevalence of tobacco use and smoking was lower among women than among men, the survey found the frequency of cigarettes smoked per day by women smokers was 7, or higher than men smokers’ average frequency of 6.1.
The proportion of men and women in the group of the heaviest smokers — 25 or more cigarettes per day — was equal: two per cent.
India’s health ministry has for years steadily pushed for tobacco control measures that include restrictions on advertising, sales to minors, a ban on smoking in public places, and pictorial warnings on tobacco products. But a lack of complementary initiatives required from other government agencies has hurt the effectiveness of some of these initiatives.
Tobacco cultivation in India also provides livelihood to millions of people.
Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who released the GATS-India survey today said India “cannot indefinitely tolerate a public health hazard in the name of protecting livelihoods”.
The health ministry is seeking to collaborate with the agriculture ministry to seek alternative crops for tobacco farmers.
But many public health experts believe the real solution lies in cutting off demand for tobacco, not trying to regulate supply. “As long there’s demand, there will be supply,” said Jha. “The increased pricing strategy is the best way forward, but it could be tough politically.”