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Home > India > News > PTI

In India, people hardly quit smoking. Blame literacy!

February 14, 2008 11:44 IST

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About 50 per cent of people dying in India due to smoking are illiterates, says a study by the World Health Organisation.

"This shows the need for pictorial warnings as the illiterate people cannot read written warnings and need pictorial warnings to tell them about the dangers of smoking," WHO member Poonam Singh said.

According to Prabhat Jha, author of the study, the rate of quitting smoking across the world is higher than that in India.

While in India, the rate of quitting smoking is just two per cent, China scores with nine per cent even as the country did not use pictorial warnings.

"It was the awareness created through the media, which helped in the Chinese case."

In the United Kingdom, however, the change from pictorial warnings to written ones helped a lot.

"Something like 40 per cent of the population in the United Kingdom has quit smoking over a period of 20 years," Jha said, adding that the number of smokers in that country declined from 80,000 to 40,000 per year in close to two decades.

"Currently the quitting rate in India is very low. May be pictorial warnings would help," Jha said.

Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss is a strong proponent of pictorial warnings on tobacco products, depicting advanced stages of diseases caused due to smoking.

But the effort is stalled due to protests from the bidi workers, who claim that their livelihood would be affected due to the step.

The new study predicts one million deaths per year for smokers in India from 2010 onwards.

The study -- probably the first of its kind which gives extensive information about women smokers in the country -- said though the percentage of women smokers in India is lesser than that of men, the habit kills more females in this country.

It showed that there is an eight-year gap in the life of women who smoke and those who do not. For men, the figure is a six-year gap for 'bidi' smokers and 10 years for cigarette smokers.

Contrary to the general perception, bidis are less harmful than cigarettes.

"Probably because of the less tobacco content in each bidi as compared to a cigarette, it has been found that the former are responsible for lesser number of deaths than the latter," Jha said.

Also the overall risks of smoking are roughly the same in the eastern and western countries.

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