The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) is initiating a large-scale study across India titled ‘Global Young Tobacco Survey’ to gauge tobacco consumption pattern among youngsters aged 13 to 17 years. The survey comes months after the central government released the second Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), in 2017, to analyse tobacco use in men and women of rural and urban India. The survey had found that 42 per cent men, 14.2 per cent women consume tobacco in some form.
The house-to-house survey also indicated that prevalence of tobacco consumption amongst minors had reduced from 10 to 4 per cent countrywide from 2010 to 2017. However, a significant 12.4 per cent of total tobacco users were in the age bracket of 15-24 years.
“The age of initiation into consuming tobacco is low. It starts from 15-17 years of age due to either popularity or ease of access,” said Sulabha Parasuraman, who was in-charge of the GATS-2 survey. She added that less than one per cent people were found consuming e-cigarettes, the awareness of which is growing steadily. “The current young tobacco survey will focus on 13 to 17 year olds. We will visit a sample size of private and government schools in all states to get a questionnaire filled by students from eighth, ninth, and tenth classes,” she said.
Realising that teenagers may shy away from answering questions about tobacco use correctly, the TISS team will allow answers to be filled by students anonymously. “This is to get as credible information as possible without forcing any identification,” Parasuraman said.
A total of 80,000-90,000 students across India will be covered. “A lot of children who consume tobacco or drugs drop out of school. We are trying to include them as well,” she added. According to TISS director Professor S Parasuraman, a final nod from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is awaited following which the survey will begin.
“We are waiting for them to release funds. The survey will take about a year to complete,” he said. The survey on youngsters will not only include cigarettes and smokeless tobacco such as khaini, paan masala, zarda, but will also focus on intake of hookah, e-cigarettes and even drugs such as cough syrups that contain codeine phosphate.
The GATS study had found that increase in taxes and pictorial warning on tobacco products had helped reduce consumption between 2010 and 2017. In Maharashtra, 24 million people are estimated to consume tobacco, which is a dip in the last seven years from 31.4 to 26.6 per cent among adults.
What has worried health officials is the rising trend of tobacco use among youngsters in Maharashtra. While the national average suggested a decline in tobacco use amongst minors, in Maharashtra it showed a rise from 2.9 per cent to 5.5 per cent, for those aged 15-17, from 2010 to 2017.
Releasing these findings, state Health Minister Deepak Sawant said, “The state is lagging in implementation
of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA). We need to understand if stress is driving youngsters towards tobacco or fascination. I see IT and banking professionals inclined more towards smoking.”