The focus of the World No Tobacco Day 2018 is cardiovascular health. It is common knowledge that tobacco use and consumption is a prime risk factor for the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. According to World Health Organization (WHO), 12% of all heart disease deaths are due to active and passive smoking. Despite the adverse impact of tobacco, large sections of the public still tolerate its use, feign ignorance, and become addicted to its consumption. Although developed countries show a perceptible fall in smoking, there has been a rapid increase in the use of tobacco products in India.
According to the Government of India’s National Sample Survey data, India has 184 million tobacco consumers, about 40% of them use smokeless tobacco, 20% consume cigarettes, and another 40% smoke beedis. Pan masala and chewing of tobacco in different forms constitute the smokeless tobacco use, whereas indigenous devices like hooka, chhutta or dhumti are also used to in tobacco consumption. Thus, India presents a complex picture owing to the variety of ways tobacco is used and consumed.
The prime targets of the tobacco industry are also the most vulnerable: adolescents and children. According to a survey done by the National Sample Survey Organization of the Indian Government, it is estimated that about 20 million children of ages 10–14 are tobacco-addicts and about 5500 new users are added every day. This makes up two million new users every year!
What surprises many is that there is no rural-urban difference when it comes to becoming addicted to tobacco. Tobacco use is pervasive among students, professionals and street kids of major Indian metros, where much of the middle-aged population is already addicted to tobacco. The role of family, peers, emotional factors and poverty play a role in wrecking the life of the youth, who invariably resorts to drugs, alcohol and tobacco for relief. Whether or not there is a curb on media advertisements or tobacco promotion, youth are susceptible to the nefarious influences, especially tobacco. Piramal Swasthya is working towards Transforming Health Ecosystems across 16 states of India in partnership with Central and State Governments, Corporates, National & International organisations. One of the major components of our work is social and behaviour change communication both at community as well as stakeholder level through various information, education, communications media. India’s current state suggests an urgent need to educate school children, youth, vulnerable communities, and the general public about the consequences of tobacco use as an effective means to contribute towards curbing the problem.