Almost 64 percent smokers want to quit but can't : Study

31st May is World No Tobacco Day

Credit : Hindi Jankari

Report - Jayali Wavhal

Many are familiar with the story of Mukesh - the guy who chewed tobacco and got mouth cancer; or the little girl who is affected by her father’s habit of smoking while watching TV; or the senior citizen who force feeds a smoker hot pakoras because he has been publicly smoking thus affecting several others. These ads were issued in public interest by the Government of India to raise awareness about the ill-effects of tobacco intake because according to a global report, one in six deaths in India is caused by tobacco consumption.

While celebrating the annual World No Tobacco Day (WTND) on 31st May, World Health Organisation shall attempt to discourage indulgence in any form of tobacco consumption for 24 hours. It will also raise awareness against the deadly effects of tobacco use, with the main focus on lung health – this year’s theme for WTND.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) team conducted its recent survey on tobacco consumption in India for the year 2016-17. According to this report, cigarettes and khaini are the most popular in urban areas, while beedi and gutka are popular in rural areas. Needless to say, these are also the number one cause of death by tobacco in their respective regions. 19% of men and 2% of women consume smokable tobacco (cigarettes, beedi) whereas 29.6% of men and 12.8% of women currently use smokeless tobacco (khaini, gutka, paan masala,etc).

THE GATS report was conducted extensively for Maharashtra too where it studied the trends of tobacco consumption in the urban and rural areas. While consumption of cigarettes is 2.7% in urban areas, its only 1.1% in the rural areas, and while consumption of beedi at 1.8% in urban areas, it stands at 2% in rural areas. Gutka is consumed by 9.1% of the urban population as compared to 8.2% of the rural population. However, khaini consumption stands at 12.7% and 17.9% in urban and rural areas respectively. Besides these products, ‘paan masala with tobacco’ is consumed by 2% users in urban areas and 1.3% in rural areas. With a wholesome study, the tobaccos consumption in rural areas is 29.9% against the 22.9% consumption rate in urban areas.

Avinash, 21, is a student of Savitribai Pule Pune University, hailing from Osmanabad. He states that he started chewing tobacco since he was in 17 years old, as it was a part of their lifestyle back home. “I have seen my grandfather, my father, my uncle and my elder brothers using tobacco products since I was a child. It was a part of our routine – go sit in the verandah after dinner and chew tobacco or smoke beedi. It is what everyone does in our village.” Mangesh Raut, an Uber driver, carries khaini packets with him at all times. “It’s a stress reliever to be honest. In our village, cigarettes are expensive as compared to khaini or beedi. So, we started with them and haven’t stopped since.”

Lifestyle, peer pressure and stress have all been major reasons for consuming tobacco and even being addicted to it, study shows. 17.6% of the urban population and 22% in rural areas have been introduced to some form of tobacco consumption at their homes. 19% in urban areas and 22.6% in rural areas started using tobacco at their workplace under peer pressure. And 21.3% and 19.7% in urban and rural areas respectively were acquainted with tobacco products at public places.

Rohit, 32, who works with an IT company in Pune said, “When I joined the company, my colleagues used to come to the smoking area during breaks where they used to chat and discuss things related to work. I used to feel left out as I had never smoked before. Owing to the peer pressure and in a desperate attempt to fit in, I started smoking cigarettes which eventually led to occasional consumption of beedi too. I regret it but it’s tough to quit now.”

 India has taken various steps to control the use of tobacco by introducing development programs and bombarding the public with commercials depicting the negative effects of tobacco intake. The health ministry directed healthcare centres to take appropriate steps for counselling tobacco users, under the guidelines of the Food and Drug Administration. As per the GATS report for India, 48.2% users were advised by health care officials against consumption of tobacco. In Maharashtra, an average of 24.1% urban smokers are attempting to quit against the average 20.6% rural smokers while an average 64.2% urban smokers are planning to quit against the average 46.1% rural smokers. Some smokers also decided to quit because of the warning labels on the packets and the commercials shown while watching movies.  Others decided to quit because of expenditure – daily cigarette smoker shall spend a monthly average of Rs.1028.3 on cigarettes and a daily beedi smoker will spend a monthly average of Rs.255.3 on beedi, says the GATS report for Maharashtra.

Tobacco has been a proven cause of multiple ailments like respiratory diseases, cancer, oral cancer, infertility, ulcer, heart diseases, stress and much more. Albeit, awareness programs and celebrating events like World No Tobacco Day prove to be a motivating factor to quit tobacco consumption, things can improve for one only through sheer will power and motivation from within.


Jayali is an intern with Indie Journal.