According to a recent study conducted by Institute for Public Health published in BMJ Global Health, cigarettes are replacing the traditional beedi, possibly due to increasing income levels in India. The study also shows that though the smoking habit among aged people has decreased, smoking between the age group of 15-29 years has increased. Experts feel there is a need to increase taxation on cigarettes to discourage young people from replacing beedis with cigarette.
In 2015, 10.8 crore men were found to be smoking tobacco cigarettes, while the study states that there has been sudden increase in the number of male smokers aged between 15 and 69 in the past 10 years. “The sharpest relative and absolute increase was for cigarette smoking, particularly in young adult men aged 15-29 years. The increases in cigarette use among younger adult men were seen in rural areas and were greatest among illiterate men. Rapid income growth over the last decade has most likely contributed to the shift in smoking — from the less-expensive beedis to cigarettes,” the study said.
The study found that the smoking habit among women, especially younger ones, was same as the previously recorded data. But this falls under the most vulnerable group of smokers.
The study raised the concern that with rising income among women, in the nearby future, the smoking habit among women would increase. “In the future, young women, particularly in urban areas, could take up cigarette smoking,” stated the study.
Responding to the study, experts felt the need to increase taxation on cigarette to discourage young people who are replacing non-smoking tobacco with cigarettes.
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck surgeon at the Tata Memorial Hospital said, “There is no check on beedi consumption among people, so we don’t have accurate data to know how many people smoke beedis. Plus, there is a need to make stringent policies to curb smoking at public places.”
“Our study shows that with rapid income growth over the last decade, there has been a shift in the smoking pattern where people are moving from less expensive beedis to cigarettes. So, there is a need to impose higher taxation on tobacco products,” said Dr Prakash C. Gupta from the Institute of Public Health, Mumbai, who is one of the members who carried out the study.