Tobacco use among young women has risen rapidly in India, with 9.7 per girls between the ages of 13 and 15 years using some form of tobacco as compared to 3.1 adult women. Tobacco prevalence among adult men is a high 57 per cent, with 32.7 per cent of them smoking bidis or cigarettes, says the World Health Organization’s First Report on Global Tobacco Use & Control Efforts released on Thursday.
Tobacco use starts young in India, with 14.1 per cent children between the ages of 13 and 15 smoking or use some form of tobacco, says the WHO. Of these, 17.3 per cent tobacco users boys and 9.7 per cent girls.
Inconsistent implementation of the Tobacco Control Act banning tobacco sale to minors and making public places smoke-free is a major reason why even children can buy and consume tobacco, which kills one million people in India each year, says the report.
“Implementation of restrictions and bans on smoking and tobacco abuse will improve with the setting up of the National Tobacco Regulatory Authority, which we hope to announce by May 31, World No Tobacco Day. The Authority will empower civil society and people’s representatives such as NGOs, MPs and school headmasters to fine people who break the law,” says health minister Anbumani Ramadoss.
India’s Cigarettes and The smoke-free workplaces ban will also be announced then, with companies and institutions getting till October 2 to enforce it. “Tobacco kills up to half of those who use it yet low prices, aggressive marketing and lack of awareness about its dangers makes it a popular addiction. Most of tobacco’s damage to health do not become evident until years, India is sitting on a epidemic of heart disease, respiratory illnesses and cancers in the next 20 years,” says Ramadoss.
Calling tobacco use one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, the WHO report says tobacco epidemic has shifted to the developing world, where 80 per cent of the over 8 million annual tobacco-related deaths projected by 2030 are expected to occur. This shift, the report says, results from a global tobacco industry strategy to target young people, especially young women, which it says is one of the “most ominous potential developments of the epidemic’s growth,” says the report.