India loses $7.2 bn a year to tobacco


New Delhi : India loses at least $7.2 billion per year as healthcare expenditure due to tobacco consumption, experts said Thursday, as the World No Tobacco Day was observed around the globe.

Support TwoCircles

"Over 900,000 Indians lose their lives due to tobacco consumption every year and in monetary terms the country loses at least $7.2 billion as health expenditure due to it," said K. Srinath Reddy, head of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

PHFI is a public-private initiative to devise ways to tackle the menace of tobacco addiction and help the health ministry in policy decisions.

"Tobacco consumption is associated with 25 diseases with cardio-vascular problems, cancer and diabetes being the major ones. Studies have also found that tobacco consumption is increasing the chance of tuberculosis," Reddy, a former head of cardiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told IANS.

He said more and more Indian women, either from the poor class or the upper middle class, were falling prey to gimmicks of tobacco manufacturing companies.

"Either an illiterate woman in some remote village of Haryana is chewing a gutkha packet or a working lady in a metropolitan city is smoking. Women forget that smoking leads pregnancy complications and takes away their beauty early," he said.

Experts were also against smoking scenes in films.

"No person, whosoever it is, should smoke on screen. They are celebrities and influence public mind," said K.K. Kapoor, member of the Discipline Committee of Delhi Medical Council.

"They are public figures and influence young minds largely. How can they be allowed to smoke and help a bad habit flourish? A blanket ban on smoking in films and TV serials is the call of the hour.

"Any public figures, sports persons or film stars promoting tobacco are equal to criminals. They rob the nation of its most valuable possession of youth and vigour," said Kapoor, a former president of Delhi Medical Association.

K. Rehman, regional advisor the World Health Organisation (WHO), India, said that on the World No Tobacco Day, India must extend its anti-tobacco awareness programme and dissuade more and more people from the killing habit.

Stressing the loss of the human capital due to tobacco, Reddy said a regular tobacco consumer loses nearly 11 years of life. "And in case of a teenager taking to tobacco, he is estimated to lose nearly 27 years of his life expectance."

Said Ramesh Srivastava, who has quit smoking after 30 years: "It's a medical necessity and all depends on the will power. I was a smoker between 1969 and 1999 but I have quit smoking and am feeling better.

"Earlier I used to feel tired in the morning but I can feel the difference now. I will advise youngsters to quit smoking as it is good for their health," Srivastava said.

In a bid to spread the message of the ill effects of smoking and curb the growing number of people who are resorting to taking a puff, the WHO organised a series of events across the country to mark the day.

From staging street plays and organising rallies to setting up information booths and awareness camps and screening films emphasising the ill-effects of tobacco, a range of activities by WHO have been on for more than a week.

In Mumbai, for instance, WHO had organised a press meet with film celebrities and those from the fashion world to spread the message that tobacco can kill.

A film depicting harmful effects of smoking in public places and instances where the law has not been stringent enough to curb it has been screened at various places in Chandigarh since May 29.