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Indian Express
14 February 2008
New Delhi, India

It’s confirmed. If you wish to have a long and healthy life, then you better heed those warnings on cigarette labels. An independent research by the Canada–based Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR) on the effects of smoking on Indians has revealed some startling facts. It predicts that by 2010, at least 10 lakh will die annually (1/10th of the total) due to smoking.

Dr Prabhat Jha, lead author of the research team from St Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, says that illiterate people have more to fear.

“More than half the people killed due to smoking are from rural backgrounds. This is because they are not able to understand the labels printed on the back of cigarettes. Pictorial displays are more effective than written,” says Jha.

The study was conducted over a period of three years (2001–03) in over 6,671 randomly selected areas across the country. Around 900 field workers went door–to–door to collect data from all adult deaths that occurred in at least 1.1 million homes.

The researchers then compared the smoking histories of the 74,000 adult deaths (due to diseases) with the smoking history of the 78,000 living relatives. And the results were shocking. It found that at least 80 per cent people smoked bidis, which contain less tobacco than cigarettes. The difference in the effects of smoking the two, however, is not very significant.

The basic premise of the study was observation of the smoking patterns of Indians vis–a–vis Europe. Says Jha: “We were shocked as we found that even though Indians started smoking at a much later age, the effects were equally disastrous.”

Contrary to earlier beliefs, the study revealed that smoking actually has deadly effects in the middle age (36–69 years) group.

In men, about 61 per cent are expected to die in the middle–age as compared to 41 per cent of non–smokers. In women, 68 per cent can be expected to die as compared to only 38 per cent of non–smokers. In terms of figures, this means that by 2010, 6 lakh men and 1 lakh women will die annually due to smoking.

The research also busted the claim that cancer is the major cause of smoking related deaths. As per the study, 38 per cent deaths were due to tuberculosis and cancer accounted for only 32 per cent.

Although numerous studies have been conducted on this issue in the past, this one assumes larger dimensions for its national representation.

Even Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss acknowledges the findings of this study.

“I am alarmed by the findings and particularly concerned about the 600 million young population of the country,” he says.

Lifting the smoke–screen
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