New data shows that the number of men smoking tobacco in India increased by more than one-third to 108 million between 1998 and 2015.
The study also found that cigarettes were replacing the traditional bidi, a small, inexpensive Indian cigarette, possibly due to substantially higher income in India and population growth.
That finding led study author Dr Prabhat Jha to urge the Indian government to increase tobacco taxes in its Feb. 29 budget. Previous research by Dr Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research of St. Michael’s Hospital, has shown that raising the tax on tobacco is the single most effective intervention to lower smoking rates and to deter future smokers.
China is the only country in the world with more smokers than India. In both countries, tobacco taxes have not kept pace with the increased affordability of cigarettes. In 2010 smoking caused about 1 million deaths or 10 per cent of all deaths in India, with about 70 per cent of those deaths occurring between the ages of 30 and 69, what should be the prime of their lives, said Dr Jha, a professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
The study found the number of men smoking any type of tobacco at ages 15-69 years rose by about 29 million, or 36 per cent, from 79 million in 1998 to 108 million in 2015, representing an average annual increase of about 1.7 million male smokers.