World No Tobacco Day
Students pose for pictures with "big cigarette models" during campaign ahead of World No Tobacco Day, at primary school in HandanReuters

The World Health Organisation (WHO) celebrates World No Tobacco Day 2013 on Friday with the theme "ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship", highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and the need to advocate policies that will reduce its consumption.

According to WHO's 'Global Status Report on Noncommunicable Diseases', almost six million people die from tobacco use each year, out of which more than 600,000 die from second-hand smoke.

With an aim to curb this epidemic caused by tobacco use, WHO urges all countries on World No Tobacco Day 2013 to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship under the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) article 13, as statistics shows that is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce tobacco demand.

Smoking is estimated to cause about 71 percent of lung cancer, 42 percent of chronic respiratory disease and nearly 10 percent of cardiovascular disease.

The report suggested that deaths due to use of tobacco will increase to 7.5 million by 2020, accounting for 10 percent of all deaths.

Surprisingly, nearly 80 percent of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low and middle-income countries, contrasting the notion that people from high-income countries are at higher risk. Over 80 percent of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths, and almost 90 percent of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, occur in low and middle-income countries.

The Global Status Report on Noncommunicable Diseases said that low and middle-income countries suffer more with more than two thirds of all cancer deaths occurring in these countries, and the deaths under the age of 60 amounting to 29 percent, compared to 13 percent in high-income countries.

The estimated percentage increase in cancer incidence by 2030, compared with 2008, will be greater in low (82 percent) and lower-middle-income countries (70 percent), compared with the upper-middle (58 percent) and high-income countries (40 percent).

Deaths in India Due to Tobacco Use

According to the WHO Global Report on "Tobacco Attributable Mortality" 2012, seven percent of all deaths (for ages 30 and over) in India are attributable to tobacco. Within communicable diseases, the deaths attributed to tobacco use accounted for 5 percent of all deaths caused by lower respiratory infections and 4 percent of tuberculosis deaths.

The Report on Tobacco Control in India (2004) said that nearly 8-9 lakh people die every year in India due to diseases related to tobacco use. It said that up to one in five deaths from tuberculosis (TB) could be avoided if TB patients did not smoke.

According to the survey - Global Adult Tobacco Survey- India (GATS) - conducted by Government of India in 2010 in collaboration with WHO and Centre of Disease Control (CDC, Atlanta) covering all states and Union Territories of the country, nearly 35 percent of the population consume one for of tobacco or the other.

Here are the key findings of GATS - India:

  • 275 million adults in India (15 years and above), nearly 35 percent of the population consume some form of tobacco.
  • The most prevalent form of tobacco usage is smokeless tobacco with 206 million users. Smokeless tobacco use in India is the highest in the world with 25.9 percent of the adults, 32.9 percent of men and 18.4 percent women, using it.
  • Among smokeless forms of tobacco, khaini (tobacco with lime mixture) is the most prevalent form (11.6 percent) followed by Gutkha (8.2 percent) and betel quid with tobacco (6.2 percent).
  • Among smoking forms of tobacco, bidis are the most prevalent form (9.2 percent) followed by cigarettes (5.7 percent).
  • The average age at initiation of tobacco use was 17.8 years with 25.8 percent of females starting tobacco use before the age of 15 years.
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke remains high with 52.3 percent and 29.0 percent of the population exposed to second-hand smoke at home and at public places (mainly in public transport and restaurants) respectively.
  • Five in ten current smokers (46.6 percent) and users of smokeless tobacco (45.2 percent) planned to quit or at least thought of quitting.
  • Among 47 percent of users of smokeless tobacco who visited a health care provider 34 percent were asked by the health care provider whether they used smokeless tobacco and only 27 percent were advised to stop such use.
  • Among 47 percent of smokers who visited a health care provider 53 percent were asked by the health care provider whether they smoked and only 46 percent were advised to stop smoking.

Harmful Effects of Tobacco on Health

According to National Tobacco Control Programme report by Government of India, consumption of tobacco causes the following health hazards:

  • Oral, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas and throat cancer
  • Cardiovascular diseases and lung disorders
  • Stroke, cataract, peripheral vascular diseases etc
  • Studies show that tobacco use leads to impotency
  • Tobacco use by pregnant women leads to low birth weight of babies, premature deliveries, still births and birth defects.
  • Respiratory problems
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