Going by the steady fall in cigarette consumption in India, which has the world’s second highest number of tobacco users, the goal of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that was set in 2014 to cut down tobacco use by 20% by 2020 and 30% by 2025 may not be impossible.
However, one thing that might come in way is that India houses the second largest number of female smokers after United States.
Based on the health ministry data of 2014-15 the total cigarette consumption has come down by 10 billion sticks when compared to 2012-13. The consumption in 2014-15 was 93.2 billion sticks.
One of the key reasons for the decline could be the substantial increase in duty on cigarettes since July 2014, when finance minister Arun Jaitley presented the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s first budget
According to a 2014 study, titled `Smoking Prevalence and Cigarette Consumption in 187 Countries 1980-2012', by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the number of women smokers in India went up by over 139 percent with 5.3 million female smokers in 1980 to 12.7 million 2012. However, anti-tobacco activists feel that global trend of the rate of decline among women smokers is consistently faster than in men, reported Times of India.
Although the fall in consumption is good news as the health problems caused by cigarette consumption remains limited because consumption of chewing tobacco and bidis is quite high.
According to a health ministry study in 2009-10, 24% of men and 17% of women use smokeless tobacco. About 9% of men and 1% of women both chew tobacco and smoke it. The survey also showed that tobacco use was higher in rural areas compared to urban areas in both men and women. About 52% among rural men and 24% among rural women compared to 38% and 12% in urban areas consumed tobacco.
TOI quoted Bobby Ramakant, an anti-tobacco activist with Corporate Accountability International saying, “Every kind of tobacco product consumption ought to be taxed, including the small-scale bidi and gutka manufacturers.”
“This, along with pictorial warnings and adequately funded programmes to help people quit us ing tobacco, is the only way the National Tobacco Control Programme will work. It all depends on the government's commitment to reduce non-communicable diseases. Tobacco use is a huge risk factor for many of these diseases, especially cancer,” he added.