More smokers want to quit after harsh pictorial warnings

Fourteen percent adults in India currently smoke tobacco.

New Delhi: Anti-tobacco campaigns by the
government and stringent pictorial warnings on packages of
smoking and chewable tobacco products seem to have increased
the number of smokers in India who wish to quit smoking.

"Studies carried out after the implementation of
pictorial package warnings in Brazil, Canada, Singapore and
Thailand consistently show that graphic warnings have
significantly increased people`s awareness of the harms of
tobacco use," according to the World Health Organisation.

In India, the world`s second-largest producer and
consumer of tobacco after China, over 241 million people are
estimated to be using tobacco in some form or the other.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS)
2009-2010, nearly 35 per cent of Indians (47 per cent of men
and 20.3 per cent of women) are currently using some form of

However, around 38 per cent of cigarette smokers, 29.3
per cent of bidi users and 33.8 per cent of those who use
smokeless tobacco were thinking about quitting because of the
warning labels on the products they use, says the Global Adult
Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2009-2010.

According to the survey, conducted by the
International Institute for Population Sciences in association
with WHO and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 14 per
cent adults in India currently smoke tobacco, while 25.9 per
cent people used smokeless tobacco.

It also says that over 52 per cent people were exposed
to second-hand smoke at home, while 29 per cent get exposed to
it in public places.

However, the study found that 38.4 per cent smokers --
38.3 per cent men and 38.9 per cent women -- have made an
attempt to quit. The figure for users of smokeless tobacco was
35.5 per cent -- 38.8 per cent men and 29 per cent women.

Currently, the government has set aside Rs 186 crore
for the National Tobacco Control Programme in the 11th Five
Year Plan. Of which it spends Rs 25 crore on audio-visual
publicity in the anti-tobacco propaganda.

A new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal
`Tobacco Control`, has said that mass media campaigns are
"feasible" and can be used as "efficacious interventions for
tobacco control in India".

The study, which evaluated a six-week national media
campaign targeted at smokeless tobacco users in 2009, found
that the campaign affected tobacco users as intended, with
over 70 per cent of smokers saying the campaign had made them
stop and think.

Tobacco use is one of the biggest contributors to the
epidemic of noncommunicable diseases -- such as heart attack,
stroke, cancer and emphysema -- which accounts for 63 per cent
of all deaths, nearly 80 per cent of which occur in low- and
middle-income countries.

Up to half of all tobacco users will eventually die of
a tobacco-related disease, WHO has said, adding that "this
year (2011), the tobacco epidemic will kill nearly six million
people, including some 600,000 nonsmokers, who will die from
exposure to tobacco smoke."

"By 2030, it could kill 8 million," it predicted.

India, where a person spends nearly Rs 3,600 a year
for buying tobacco products, is the second-largest producer of
tobacco in the world after China.

Estimates suggest that India generates Rs 35,000 crore
annually in revenue from the tobacco industry. At the same
time it`s also believed that the use of tobacco products like
gutkha, cigarettes and bidis will be responsible for 13 per
cent of all deaths in India by 2020.

Dr N K Pandey, Chairman and MD of Asian Institute of
Medical Sciences at Faridabad, said it`s high time government
and NGOs should intensify their campaigns to educate people
about the harmful effects of tobacco by impactful packaging
and labeling of tobacco products.

"Minor`s especially should not be allowed to sell or
consume tobacco products. We need to also aggressively focus
in helping people end their tobacco addiction," he said.

Dr Manav Manchanda, a Respiratory Medicine expert at
AIMS, said, "Though it was once considered fashionable to
smoke, it is now looked down upon owing to the health risks
for not only the smoker but also the person inhaling
second-hand smoke."


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