Chandigarh, April 26: Despite tobacco consumption being a sensitive issue in Punjab, it is among seven states in the country that have witnessed a surge in tobacco users over the past seven years. Use of smokeless tobacco has gone up from 6.5% to 8% between 2010 and 2017 while smoking habit has increased from 6.9% to 7.3% as per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) report released last week.
Overall, the prevalence of any tobacco use has increased from 11.7% in GATS I (2009-10) to 13.4% in GATS 2 (2016-17).The prevalence of smokeless tobacco use has increased by 1.5 percentage points over this period.
The household survey is done in collaboration with the World Health Organisation(WHO) covering persons 15 years of age or older and conducted in 30 states and two Union Territories. As per its latest findings, 25.3% of men, 0.5% of women and 13.4% of all adults in Punjab either smoke tobacco and/or use smokeless tobacco.
Bidi and khaini (a form of chewing tobacco that contains slaked lime) are the two most commonly used tobacco products; 5.9% of adults smoke bidi and 5.2% use khaini in the state, found the survey.
Reacting to the findings, Dr Prahlad Duggal, patron for Punjab of Voice of Tobacco Victims, an anti-tobacco campaign, said, “It is a wakeup call for the Punjab government. It is a clear cut failure of its tobacco control machinery which wastes no time in patting its back for even the smallest of the events but has been clearly found wanting in fullfilling its duty.”
Oral surgeon from Amritsar Dr Ramandeep Singh Bhullar added, “It is ironical that officials of Punjab kept projecting it as the leaders in tobacco control in the country despite the civil society’s repeated caution. When every one in 10 Punjabis has ‘khaini’ in his pocket, there is a need to take measures for keeping this gateway substance under check.”
Going by rough estimates, if 24 lakh people used tobacco in some form in 2010, the figure has touched 30 lakh now with over six lakh new tobacco users.