According to the latest data given by the health ministry in Parliament, cigarette consumption in 2014-15 was 93.2 billion sticks -10 billion less than in 2012-13. Production fell from 117 billion sticks to 105.3 billion in the same period.
In the face of this good news is the sobering finding of a global tobacco study , which showed that the number of women smokers in India went up from 5.3 million in 1980 to 12.7 million in 2012. The study , titled `Smoking Prevalence and Cigarette Consumption in 187 Countries 1980-2012′, was carried out by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and released last year.This jump in numbers consti tutes only a marginal increase in prevalence (percentage of smokers in the above 15 population) from 3% to 3.2%. But it has been flagged as an area of concern by anti-tobacco activists who point out that it runs against the global trend of the rate of decline among women smokers being consistently faster than in men.
Incidentally , unlike most countries where cigarettes constitute over 90% of tobacco consumption, in India, it is just about 11%. Hence, while the decline is a positive development, its impact on burden of diseases caused by tobacco remains limited as consumption is dominated by chewing tobacco, followed by bidis.
According to a 2009-10 survey by the health ministry, 24% of men and 17% of women use smokeless tobacco, much higher than the proportion of smokers in that age group 15% and 2% respectively. About 9% of men and 1% of women both chew tobacco and smoke it. The survey also showed that tobacco use was higher in rural areas 52% among men and 24% among women, compared to 38% and 12% in urban areas. In the US, where almost a third of the population were smokers in 1980, ground-breaking re search on diseases caused by tobacco use and sustained campaigns by the government and non-profit agencies has managed to bring down prevalence to around 17% of the adult population.
“Every kind of tobacco product consumption ought to be taxed, including the small-scale bidi and gutka manufacturers,“ said Bobby Ramakant, an anti-tobacco activist with Corporate Accountability International.“This, along with pictorial warnings and adequately funded programmes to help people quit us ing tobacco, is the only way the National Tobacco Control Programme will work. It all depends on the government’s commitment to reduce non-communicable diseases. Tobacco use is a huge risk factor for many of these diseases, especially cancer.“