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New study quantifies economic burden of second-hand smoking in India

According to the study, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, the annual direct economic costs attributable to Second-Hand Smoking (SHS) in India amounted to Rs 567 billion.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
Updated: March 23, 2022 7:42:23 am
In India, 38.7 per cent of adults are exposed to second-hand smoking (SHS) at home and 30.2 per cent at work, the findings reveal. (Representational)

A new study has quantified the economic burden of second-hand smoke exposure for persons aged 15 years and above in India.

According to the study, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, the annual direct economic costs attributable to Second-Hand Smoking (SHS) in India amounted to Rs 567 billion. This amounted to Rs 705 per adult non-smoker. The second-hand smoking-attributable costs were higher among the 20-24 age group, and women bear 71 per cent of the direct medical costs attributable to SHS. In India, 38.7 per cent of adults are exposed to second-hand smoking (SHS) at home and 30.2 per cent at work, the findings reveal.

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Researchers from the Rajagiri College of Social Sciences led by renowned economist and health policy analyst Dr Rijo M John used public data sources and a prevalence-based attributable risk approach to quantify the healthcare cost of continued exposure to second-hand smoke among non-smokers aged 15 and older.

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The Rs 567 billion figure represents only one part of the total economic costs of second-hand smoke exposure. It does not include the additional indirect economic costs due to lost productivity, morbidity, and mortality caused by illness and early deaths arising from second-hand smoke exposure, that would further increase the final figure.

“India needs to take strong measures to reduce its large number of smokers and the economic burden of treating tobacco-related diseases. Increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, yet India has not had any significant tax increase on any tobacco products for the past four years. The current tobacco tax collected in India from all tobacco products combined is less than the INR 567 billion in health care costs caused by exposure to second-hand smoke,” according to Dr. Rijo John.

According to S J Chander, Convenor of Consortium for Tobacco Free Karnataka (CFTFK), “While India has made progress in reducing tobacco use, smoking continues to impose a drastic health and economic burden. India can save millions of lives and reduce this overwhelming burden through stronger tobacco control policies. Strengthening the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act to remove all designated areas from public places and raising taxes on all tobacco products will motivate millions of Indians to quit and prevent youngsters from initiating tobacco use.”

“The findings demonstrate the terrible economic toll that second-hand smoke takes on both the Indian health care system and the secondhand smoke exposed to non-smokers. Those most affected by these costs are often the most economically vulnerable – women, young people, and those with lower incomes. Smoke free environment is an integral aspect of ‘right to health’. The responsibility and liability of ensuring a smoke-free environment should be owned by every stakeholder, especially the hotels, restaurants and bars,” said oncologist and member of Karnataka government’s High Power Committee on Tobacco Control, Dr Vishal Rao.

Dr. John added that secondhand exposure continues to be high in India because of the vast number of smokers and the gaps in India’s smoke-free law that still allow designated smoking areas in public places like restaurants, bars, hotels, and airports. The experts recommend that India strengthen its laws to effectively protect non-smokers from the health and economic impact of second-hand smoke.

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