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It pays to quit

delhi Updated: Jan 27, 2009 23:06 IST
Sanchita Sharma

India spends more on treating tobacco-related diseases than it collects in taxes from the industry, reports a study in the January issue of the British Medical Journal’s publication Tobacco Control. Money spent on treating four major categories of tobacco-related diseases — tuberculosis, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancers — were considered.

The study used data from the National Sample Survey, a nationally representative household sample survey conducted in 2004.

“The total economic cost of tobacco use in India — direct and indirect — amounted to US $1.7 billion in 2004…. many times more than the expenditures on tobacco control… and it is 16 per cent more than the total excise tax revenues collected from all tobacco products in India in financial year 2003-04 ($1.46 billion),” said authors Rijo M. John from the Universities of Illinois, Chicago, and Hai-Yen Sung and Wendy B. Max from the University of California, San Francisco.

With roughly 10 per cent of the world’s smokers, India is the second largest consumer of tobacco, second only to China.

An Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) study in 1999 had concluded that the cost of treatment and man-hours lost because of three tobacco-related diseases — heart disease, lung diseases and cancers — cost the taxpayer Rs 27,761 crore.

The current figures for direct medical cost of treating such diseases in India is over $1.2 billion (around Rs 5,842 crore), with $907 million (Rs 4,416 crore) being spent on treating diseases for smoked tobacco and US $285 million (Rs 1,387 crore) for chewing tobacco.

There are 250 million tobacco users in India. According to ICMR, tobacco kills around 3,000 people every day.

“The study linked tobacco use to the 1.8 million new cases of TB in India each year and reported this one disease alone accounts for $311 million (18 per cent) of the total cost of tobacco use. The amount is over three times the $100 million that was spent on TB control in 2006,” said Dr. P.C. Gupta, director, Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, which brought out country’s first monograph on bidi smoking.