Smoking will kill 1 million adults between 30 and 69 years in India each year in the 2010s, the country’s first nationally representative study on smoking deaths has revealed.
Cigarettes and bidis would cause one in five of all male deaths and one in 20 of all female deaths.
The research, done by a team from India, Canada and the UK and supported by the World Health Organisation and the health ministry, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Based on smoking prevalence of 35 per cent adult men and 5 per cent adult women, smoking is projected to cause about one million deaths each year, which is far more than previously believed,” said the report’s lead author professor Prabhat Jha from the Centre for Global Health Research, St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto.
While the study found no safe levels of smoking, cigarettes were found to be more dangerous than bidis. “On an average, male bidi smokers lose about six years of life, female bidi smokers lose about eight years and male cigarette smokers lose about 10 years. There were not enough women cigarette smokers in the study to draw a clear conclusion,” Jha said. The leading cause of death in urban smokers was heart attacks, while it was tuberculosis in rural areas.
There are 120 million smokers in India, with a third of the men and about five per cent of women, between 30 and 69 years, smoking either cigarettes or bidis.
About 900 field workers surveyed all adult deaths from 2001-2003 in a nationally representative sample of 1.1 million homes across the country.
What also surprised researchers were the extreme risks from smoking among Indians. “Smokers in India start at a later age than those in Europe or America and smoke less, but in India smoking kills not only from diseases like cancer and lung diseases but also from tuberculosis and heart attacks,” said Jha.