Tobacco Control in India


Bidis - India Image: Bidis – cigarettes made by rolling tobacco by hand in a dried leaf. Bidis can be flavored (e.g., chocolate, cherry, mango). For every cigarette, eight bidis are sold in India (MOHW).

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that nearly 10% of the world’s smokers live in India and approximately 25% of all deaths, among middle-aged men in India, are caused by smoking.  Tobacco smoke is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of deaths globally.  It is estimated that tobacco consumption grows at a rate of 2-3% per year in India, and by 2020 it is believed that nearly 13% of all deaths will be caused by tobacco smoke (Asian Pac J Cancer Prev).

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) estimates that between 2009 and 2010 there were 274 million tobacco users in India (47.9% males; 20.3% females).  It is believed that more than 50% of adults are exposed to secondhand smoke at home and 29% in public areas.  Use of cigarettes and other tobacco products is found to be most prevalent in the poorest populations (PLOS).

There is now substantial evidence of policies and strategies that have been effective in reducing deaths and disability from tobacco smoke on a national scale.  While some of these measures have been implemented in India,they are often loosely enforced. 

A publication by the New Indian Express revealed that three years after the ban on smoking in public places was enacted, many people believed that the smoking ban had been lifted by the government.  The lack of adherence to existing laws is most evident in major cities, where smoking zones have been created in public buildings, restaurants and offices, in an attempt to isolate smokers from non-smokers. Broad public awareness of the dangers of secondhand smoke is still lacking.

Stronger national policies are needed in support of evidence based strategies, such as the implementation of higher tobacco taxes, and low-cost tobacco-use cessation interventions (WHO). 

The impact of tobacco use on the health of the people of India, as well as its future economy, will prove detrimental if more aggressive action is not taken to enforce existing policies and enact new laws that directly address current challenges.

Related Resources:

– WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)

WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2008

WHO Report on Tobacco Control in India

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)

The Tobacco atlas

Tobacco control



2 Responses to “Tobacco Control in India”

  1. shilpav7 Says:

    I agree that the lack of adherence to existing laws is a major contributor of the acceleration in tobacco-related morbidity and mortality in India. Tobacco is available in various forms — most commonly as bidi (as shown above), cigarettes, chewing tobacco/smokeless tobacco have been used for centuries. It is the powerful tobacco lobby in India that is to blame. The laws and several other anti-tobacco initiatives have failed because of the tactics used by the tobacco industry to attract its consumers. In addition, several smoking cessation products that are currently marketed in the US and Europe such as varenicline, nicotine patch and gum, are not marketed as aggressively in India because of the lack of the will to quit smoking among the people. A good first step would be educating people about the negative impact of tobacco use, and to not make smoking seem like a social stigma (as it is viewed in some cities), but as a serious health hazard. It is important to create a strong framework and make people open to change, in order to help people learn and benefit from anti-tobacco campaigns, and the pharmaceutical marketing of tobacco cessation drugs. Only then will national policies be sustainable in the long run.

  2. jaekyounkim Says:

    Indeed smoking is one of the leading cause of death around the world. The smoking rate which is 47.9% males and 20.3% females is very high. Is there any ongoing national programs or policies controlling tobacco India? The World Health Assembly of the WHO adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in May 2003 and India ratified the convention in February 2004. It was the eight and the largest country among the early ratifying countries. It passed nearly 10 years after India ratified FCTC. What’s happening here? There is no doubt that WHO did a great job on adopting FCTC but consistent follow up is needed to monitor the implementation of the policy in the national scale.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: