Asia is smoking and so are the women!
Apparently, Asians are ‘culturally disposed’ towards smoking and this includes Asian Americans! Well, it is well known that tobacco companies target the developing world to increase their market shares…and that they are succeeding. I wanted to find out just how much Asians smoke as compared to the rest of the world and an interesting article in a recent issue of The Economist satisfied my curiosity to some extent. Take a look at this graph.
China, Japan, India and Thailand are in bad shape. And in contrast, the percentage of smokers in developed nations is falling. In the UK for example the numbers have been falling since the late nineties, a trend that seemed to have started in the eighties, when about half of the British population smoked. By 2002, there were only 26% smokers in the UK!
Smoking declined in America as far back a decade ago, with only about quarter of the adult population smoking! Even now the rates are well below 30 percent. In Germany about 27 percent of the population smokes.
Indian women take in a lot of tobacco!
The percentages are high in India and not all of it is due to the efforts of the tobacco companies! What struck me was the number of Indian women who smoke – about 17-18 percent of all women in the country, only lower than women in Bangladesh and that is the second highest percentage in Asia. A large percentage of American women smoke as well, almost equal to the men, and this seems to be a pattern in developed countries. Smoking patterns there are more socio-economic rather than based on gender.
Inverse link between education and smoking
This link has been well established and in fact in America highly educated men and women smoke less as compared to those in the general population. In India this holds true as well. It’s the illiterate women who take in the most tobacco.
Cigarettes account for an estimated 20% of tobacco consumption; about 50% of tobacco is consumed in the form of bidis, that is, traditional, leaf-wrapped unfiltered cigarettes…in general, men in India smoke as well as chew or apply tobacco, whereas women generally chew or apply tobacco, with the exception of the few areas where prevalence rates of smoking among women are high…more than 150 million men and 44 million women in India use tobacco in various forms
However, “cigarette smoking rates have been shown to increase with increasing education.” This must be because people want the so-called a ‘modern’ lifestyle. A lifestyle which is contributing to about 635000 deaths in India due to tobacco each year. Tobacco chewing on the other hand has been a habit here for a long time.
Tobacco companies targeting not just Asia, but also Asian Americans!
I was surprised to read that tobacco companies have been targeting the Asian American population as they find them less resistant to smoking! Why are Asian Americans more amenable to smoking? After all they are an educated lot. The reasons given are:
1) High prevalence of smoking in countries of origin
2) High purchasing power of the Asian immigrants
3) Cultural predisposition to smoking
4) Opportunities afforded by the high proportion of retail businesses under Asian ownership
5) Tobacco control initiatives in this group have been slower to develop than in other targeted ethnic groups
I am a little confused as to why Asians supposed to be ‘culturally disposed’ towards smoking and wonder why even after living in a developed country Asian Americans have been slow to develop tobacco control initiatives.
Related Reading: Tobacco causes cancer