India is in the midst of a catastrophic epidemic of smoking deaths, which is expected to cause about one million deaths a year. The new study by the Centre for Global Health Research at the University of Toronto is the most comprehensive study ever done on the impact of smoking in India. Currently about 104 deaths are attributed to smoking every hour in India. The study revealed that if the smoking levels continue to rise by 2010, 114 people will be dying every hour in India due to smoking.
Another major finding of the study is that 70% of people who will die due to smoking will be between the ages of 30 and 69 years – the most productive age group in any population. In India the smoking quit rate remains the lowest in the world. Only two per cent adults quit smoking often only after falling ill. In the age group of 13-15 years, 17.3 per cent are male smokers and 9.7 per cent are female smokers in India. But in the age group of 18 to 49, 32.7 per cent are male smokers whereas only 1.4 per cent of women contribute to smoking in India.
India’s Health Minister Dr Abumani Ramadoss said that he was alarmed by the results of this study.
“The government of India is trying to take all steps to control tobacco use – in particular by informing the many poor and illiterate of smoke risks”. “It is truly remarkable that one single factor, namely smoking, which is entirely preventable, accounts for nearly one in ten of all deaths in India. The study brings out forcefully the need for immediate public action in this much neglected field”, states Professor Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics. Meanwhile co-author Professor Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University says “Smoking kills, but stopping works – about a quarter of all smokers will be killed by tobacco in middle age, unless they stop.”