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India entering the third phase of the tobacco epidemic

March 10, 2009

The world’s largest tobacco control event – the14th World Conference on Tobacco and Health – is being held in Mumbai from March 8th to 12th at the NCPA (National Centre of Performing Arts).

India being in the midst of a rising tobacco epidemic a conference such as this here in Mumbai couldn’t have happened at  a more opportune time. I was there yesterday to meet a blog friend from Chile who was attending the conference and attended a few sessions with her. This is what I got from it.

There are four stages (socio-economic) of the tobacco epidemic:

Stage 1:  Smoking is not widely prevalent in the countries in this stage (example, Sub-Saharan Africa) and it is often the well-to-do who mainly smoke.

Stage 2 (China, Japan, South-East Asia and North Africa): Smoking becomes common across different strata of society, mainly amongst the men. About 50% to 80% of men tend to smoke and about 10-15% of the women.

India is in this stage too, and it is common for women from the lower socio-economic groups to consume tobacco (chewing tobacco and smoking beedis), unlike some other countries where women smokers are mostly from the upper classes. For example in China most women smokers are “businesswomen, actresses, singers and young students who think it’s cool to light up a cigarette”. Their numbers are fast rising. I do not have data on India although there is no doubt that upper class women in India are fast taking to smoking, just like the men.

In Japan 43 percent of adult men smoke as against 13 percent of women.

Stage 3 (Latin America, and countries in Central and Eastern Europe): As awareness of tobacco’s harmful effects increases, smoking decreases. In fact the percentage of the smoking population decreases to about 40% as many men stop smoking. This trend is more common in men with a higher educational level. However, women smokers continue to increase (marketers often target women in countries in this stage) and about 35%-45% of women have now started to smoke. However this is the peak rate for women and by the end of this stage the percentage of women smokers starts to fall.

Stage 4 (Western Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia):  Smoking starts to decline slowly and steadily, for both men and women, as awareness levels about the harmful effects of tobacco consumption become known amongst the population. It is people from the lower socio-economic groups who tend to smoke more.

India is different
Although India is in the second stage of the tobacco epidemic and it is mostly men who smoke, tobacco consumption is  common amongst the poor.  Perhaps it is the hard life coupled with insufficient food that makes men and women from the poorer strata to turn to chewing tobacco and smoking beedis (cigarettes rolled in leaf) 57% of Indian men are tobacco consumers in India (data from the National Health Survey), as against 11% of women.

They are not mainly from the higher economic strata, at least not yet. The data below is revealing:

Tobacco consumption in India:

  • Bidi smokers: 50%
  • Tobacco chewers: 38%
  • Cigarette smokers: 14%

Clearly, the well to do are not the main tobacco consumers in India unlike other countries in Stage 2. Beedis, which are cheaper and are stronger than cigarettes are mostly smoked by those from the lower socio-economic classes and chewing tobacco is also more common in this class.

One wonders what will happen when India reaches the third stage of the tobacco epidemic, a stage which is marked by the increase in women smokers, mainly from the higher socio-economic class. This trend is already evident in the cities. We have a huge problem…illiteracy and poverty which makes it difficult to get through to the poor on one hand, and on the other hand, the notion amongst some people that smoking is cool. If this continues India’s tobacco epidemic just might get out of control. We will get it from both ends.

I am not sure why educated and westernized people in India haven’t understood the dangers of smoking as well as their counterparts in western developed countries. When the western world lit up they were not as aware of the harm that tobacco caused. Evidence has started mounting over the years and there is a strong movement against second-hand smoke as well.

The reasons why countries tend to get mired in the second and third stages is because of a lack of education about the harmful effects of tobacco as well as weak legislation.

But as Mr. Braj Kishore Prasad (Joint Secretary from the Indian Ministry of Health and Welfare) said at the Tobacco Conference, India has excellent legislation:

  • The 2003 Tobacco Control Act
  • Ban on Public Smoking (2008)
  • Pictorial warnings to appear on packs in May 2009, subject to the government winning the court cases against this
  • Tobacco Advertising is banned
  • And a five year plan in place for massive awareness campaigns

The only problem (as Mr. Prasad saw it) was that implementation can become a problem in India. To counter this he said sensitisation programmes need to be conducted at the state level so that officers are strict about implementation. This too is planned.

Well, I am not sure whether it’s lack of sensitisation or a lack of will or lack of officers to do the job which is the real problem.

Benefits of the public smoking ban:

  • Air pollution decreases due to decrease in cigarette smoke.
  • Helps in controlling tobacco consumption amongst people (proven by research in various countries)

Will public smoking bans lead to family members being exposed to second hand smoke (SHS)?
Fears that public smoking bans lead to increased smoking at home (and thus higher exposure of family members to SHS) are thought to be unfounded. In fact there is some evidence to the contrary as in a California study, that the “increase in the proportion of workplaces going smoke free was associated with an increase in the prevalence of smoke free homes.” However, the effect of a public smoking ban tends to vary amongst households and will certainly vary by country. Studies have also shown that if the family has more than one adult smoker the chances of a home becoming smoke-free decrease.  However studies have also shown that homes with children often go (or remain) smoke-free even after a public smoking ban.

One is unsure of the effect of a public smoking ban on SHS in Indian homes. Those who smoke without elders/spouse knowing will be forced to cut down on smoking, while those who smoke openly might just hunt around for another place to smoke or do it at home.

(The picture at the conference as well as the one of the pictorial warnings on tobacco packs are by me. The last picture is a poster on the harmful effects of second-hand smoking and is from

Related Reading: Asia is smoking and so are the women!
The public smoking ban should not go up in smoke
Tobacco Kills
Eleven reasons why Indians are not as healthy as they should be
India has one of the highest cancer rates in the world

64 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2009 7:26 pm

    Yep…smoking should be killed instead of it killing all of us.
    Even Gandhiji helped us by banning smoking in public places on his birthday. Hail Gandhiji 😉

  2. March 10, 2009 7:49 pm

    All that has been written is fine.I personally don’t beleive in the word “percentage”X % in India will be different than that in Korea.However,I can tell your readers that smoking starts as a status symbol,style,page 3 etc.It eventually,becomes a habbit…..I was a sr executive in private sector and a very regular smoker..till I had heart problem,Beleive me, it was’nt worth the kick it gave then .Please give up smoking ,if you do.It is a KILLER

  3. Milind Kher permalink
    March 10, 2009 8:04 pm

    Why is it that campaigns are held only against smoking? What about alcohol consumption?

    Do people who smoke beat their wives as a result? Do people who smoke indulge in rash driving as a result? Do people smoke and misbehave as a result?

    Being a non smoker, I have no vested interest in supporting the habit. However, I find it extremely unjust that people campaign only against smoking and not against drinking.

    • March 10, 2009 9:55 pm


      The key point is that unlike over-eating or alcohol consumption, the secondary effects of smoking (second hand smoke) are immediately experienced by the people around a smoker. As such it is not a ‘personal’ issue but a broader one.

      I oppose smoking vehemently but prior to the smoking ban on public places coming into effect in England, I actually fought on the side of smokers when my college in Cambridge tried to ban smoking in the student bar. My argument was that allowing them to smoke in the bar preserved their rights (and exposing only a few bar users to second-hand smoke) without necessarily sending them outside to smoke where they can affect many more people. But of course, smoking was banned in the bar. Smokers then took to smoking outside and complaints were made by students living on the ground and the first floor flats who said they were upset people smoked outside their windows. And then we had the law against smoking come into effect. Now you cannot enter a restaurant, an office or a train station without being welcomed by those smoking on the literal and metaphorical edge of the law. Talk about externalities.

      Governments do not want to ban smoking. Have you see how much money comes into the Treasury every time the price of cigarettes goes up? In the early days, cigarettes were even promoted as a ‘healthy’ option in advertising. Now of course all advertising is banned and if I am not wrong, only one F1 car has a tobacco company as the sponsor and the logo must not be shown in TV transmissions into countries where tobacco ads on TV are banned.

      What we have in effect is a loose agreement which is ‘satisficing’ all the various opposing publics. Including the Treasury.

      Nita: Sorry to hog so much space.

      • March 11, 2009 1:19 am

        Hey, why sorry?! I often leave long comments. I think I need to improve.

        I also write irrelevant info as a PS to the comments! But yours is very relevant.

    • Solilo permalink
      March 10, 2009 10:11 pm

      DUI is a crime. But why smoking and not drinking? Because drinking doesn’t harm others as much as smoking. Yes! too much consumption of alcohol does ruin families but second hand smoking is a killer.

      Exactly! SHS is harmful and I resent it very much when people subject me to it! – Nita.

  4. March 10, 2009 8:06 pm

    Believe it or not, I was a smoker for more than four years!

    I quit it and I also quit the concomitants (tea, coffee, soft drinks). I even used to complement it with ice-cream and milk!

    Just like Leo Tolstoy (?)[ “quitting cigarette is easy, I have done it several times!”] I quit it after many failed attempts.

    I have a magic mantra to quit anything (it works with emotional people only). I had even suggested Aamir on his blog that he can write to me if he wants to quit cigarette!

    I have helped one friend quit it with this mantra! Another quit it too but was only partially inspired by me (and it was more enforced by crisis, a la Saif Ali Khan!).

    Bidi ~ 50 per cent and Cigarettes ~14 per cent! It’s certainly an eye-opener for me! In JNU students often smoke beedi when in penury!

    BTW, because I have been a smoker I can tell you that the paanwala will always give you udhaar cigarettes (for obvious reasons!) 😉

    I want all those strong measures that Ambumani talks of implemented. I wish these stars at least said a few lines against smoking (and other evils like Dowry); it would work so much in common interest. Just a few lines and millions will be moved! I wish they optimised their star power. I even once wrote to Amitabh to speak up against dowry! But why will he (the symbol of consumerism and conspicuous consumption in India!)!? Smoking, drinking etc. are becoming status symbols in India!

    BTW, I recall a prominent govt. ad (in a national daily) on ban on smoking. Instead of ‘report the incident’ (at helpline no.) they wrote repeat the incident! 😆

    Chastened by my experience I avoid anything that is habit-forming and quickly quit things if I am overly drawn in it! Never touched wine and never will!

    I wish the world was free of all such vices. Tobacco, alcoholism, Drugs and whatnot!

    BTW, in JNU campus, smoking ban is neither here nor there! They smoke freely (including the professors!). Fancy posters and notices have been put up on walls, just the same!

    P.S.: Happy Holi to everyone here! 😀 I have always locked myself in room every year in Holi. But tomorrow I am venturing out with my camera to document JNU Holi. In one hour from now, Chaat sammelan will be on in JNU (pure fun wherein one/more guys ride a donkey/camel in a procession and a laughthon is organised). Recently documented JNU caves ( Leaving on 13th for Rishikesh river-rafting (3 days) and will document it too. BTW, I don’t know swimming and if I dont’ show up you can jump to the conclusion! 😉

    • March 21, 2009 2:55 pm

      I am back from Rishikesh and also documented the river rafting trip (even swam lots @life jackets!)

      This blog also brought me my first tangible blogging reward! The company impressed by the blog is offering me a free trip to the camp! 😀

  5. March 10, 2009 8:20 pm

    @ Nita : Interesting I just came home and I saw some kids smoking near my place. Very relevant to what I was thinking just a moment ago. As for as Japan one of the main problems there is cigarette vending machines. You can simply buy your smokes everywhere by just tossing in a couple of hundred Yen in to a faceless machine. Although now they are having special “smoker cards” which only adults will have access to.

    In India I think smoking will reach a peak before it falls. I do not think that smoking as a habit can be compared with ‘drinking’. It has far more reaching effects than someone beating up his wife after getting drunk. I am sure there are men or women who beat their partners without drinking as well. So I completely disagree with Milind above. There are plenty of people who can enjoy a glass or two of wine or something without losing control of themselves.

    One of the approaches that may work with smoking is the pictorial warning but at the same time the product itself needs to be placed out of reach of people who can not pay for the special healthcare needs of smokers.

    Odzer, I too think that smoking is going to increase in India and it’s just sad! – Nita.

  6. Milind Kher permalink
    March 10, 2009 9:28 pm

    I am of the belief that nothing harmful to health should be consumed.

    This means tobacco, alcohol, trans fats, refined carbs, the works!!

    A lot of people who have ruined their lives or died of liver cirrhosis started with the “harmless glass or two”. I have seen colleauges go down the drain with this habit of drinking, and seen how their families suffer.

    So, people can disagree with me, no issue. But what I am saying IS supported by a lot of facts.

    • March 10, 2009 9:57 pm


      I saw this comment after I typed a rather long reply to your last comment.

      But reading this comment brought the word ‘fascism’ to mind 🙂

      • March 10, 2009 10:09 pm

        Oh, I forgot about this cool feature. I’m pasting my reply to Milind here. Nita, feel free to edit my other comment if necessary.

        @ Milind:
        What’s next on your list of ‘harmful to health’? Refined wheat, street food, Lays and coke, fertilized farm produce, red meat? There is no limit to the extent of probation my friend. If you are suggesting that everyone who has a ‘glass or two’ of alcohol are going to be drunkards, beat their wives and die of liver whatever, please make me stop laughing at the implied oversimplification and ignorance of your view.

        • Nimmy permalink
          March 11, 2009 1:49 pm

          ‘Little’ smoking is ok
          ‘Little’ drinking is ok
          ‘Little’ dowry is ok
          ‘Little’ eveteasing is ok
          ‘Little’ forcination is ok
          ‘Little’ ajinomoto is ok
          ‘Little’ burned oil is ok


          And oh well,’Little’ is subjective,thanks to freedom of expression,one can lean on ‘little’ as to justify any act of his/her ..

          Hip Hip Hurray!!

          • Milind Kher permalink
            March 11, 2009 1:56 pm


            Very well said. What is harmful is harmful, even if it be ever so little.

            But yes, it is a matter of perspective.

          • March 12, 2009 8:15 pm

            this “little” poem is a good one… ! great point!!

  7. March 10, 2009 9:58 pm

    well we have a long way to go and we need to educate people…

  8. Milind Kher permalink
    March 10, 2009 10:05 pm


    No, d-o-n-t use that word!! I hate Hitler and Mussolini both. I respect the fact that you typed a rather long reply to my comments.

    However, you must see how socially responsible tobacco companies are. They do not permit sales to minors. They do not allow minors to carry out consumer contact.

    They also used to carry out a program called “courtesy of choice” in restaurants. Areas of the restaurant where the ac blew air INTO the restaurant were designated as non smoking areas. The areas in between were called “float” areas. The areas where the acs sucked the air out were designated as smoking areas.

    Are liquor companies so proactive? Be fair..

    Milind, use of dashes tends to put the comment into moderation and I think that is what happened with your this comment. In fact think you used four dashes! 🙂 – Nita

    • March 10, 2009 10:46 pm


      As it happens, I was at the BAT HQ here in London the day that the first CSR report came out. I think now we need CSR reports from drug dealers, since we have started that way. Might as well, no?

      It is not cigarette companies that “do not permit sales to minors”; it is the law that requires them to do so. And if you are really in any doubt about borderline practices, do think about why despite printing ‘not to be sold in singles’ or some such, they turn a blind eye to single sticks being sold (hint: it allows poor people and minors to buy them more easily). Also the burden of enforcing the ‘no sale to minors’ (which is also a legal requirement not the munificence of tobacco companies) is on the retailer, not the manufacturer, not the government. Convenient? I think so. But there is no other way short of giving people licences to buy cigarettes to, er, feed the habit.

      As for “courtesy of choice”, restaurants who did not offer non-smoking areas can find themselves sued in most cases.

      The reason to regulate – and not ban – cigarettes is that they produce tax and excise revenue and regulation allows them to stay “legal” and not go underground like cocaine or heroin.

      So I am afraid it is not about “fairness” as much as it is about sharp practices.

      As for liquor companies, they are not very different except that caffeine and alcohol continue to be socially acceptable drugs (by which I mean addictive and potentially harmful substances). The only thing that saves them is that unlike silly cigarette companies, they do not run an active campaign of disinformation or hiding information, which, incidentally was the technical basis on which the legal cases in the USA turned against them. It was never about second hand smoke or about the product being addictive. A crime of commission rather than of omission if you will.


      • Milind Kher permalink
        March 11, 2009 9:30 am


        I know that it is the law that makes cigarette companies put up stickers restraining tobacco sales to minors. Nevertheless, they are doing it in a responsible manner.

        Loose sticks do not come under the packaged commodities act, hence retailers like to sell cigarettes loose, as they can then overcharge without attracting penalty.

        Cigarette companies cannot regulate the manner in which retailers sell, as that will contravene the MRTP act.

        Coming to BAT. BAT allows a flood of contraband cigarettes under the brand name of SE 555 and B&H to enter the country. This MIE contraband hurts the sale of MII SE555 and B&H. Their cigarettes have no MRP or code date, and are inferior to the indian versions on PQRS (Product Quality Rating system)

        Therefore, BAT may not be the best benchmark to use when talking about correct practices

        • March 11, 2009 12:14 pm


          I only mentioned BAT in the context of CSR reporting. The rest is applicable to the wider industry.

          With the grey channel example, you are actually weakening your advocacy of CSR in the tobacco industry! If they do really ‘condone’ this practice, they are less responsible than you may think, since they gain brand recognition while the Indian government loses excise and sales tax revenue.

          I have some close friends, brilliant marketers, who work/ worked in the tobacco industry. I cannot contribute more to this debate without saying things in the public domain that I really mustn’t. And before you ask, yes I have tried to persuade them to quit their jobs and now they have children and a life-long taint of a pariah industry, they are finding it hard – just as the smokers who buy their products.

          PS: What happened to ‘liquor industry’ thread of discussion? Are you only going to defend tobacco but no longer criticise liquor? 🙂

          • Milind Kher permalink
            March 11, 2009 12:31 pm


            When talking of the usage of the gray channel, I am talking of what an EXTERNAL player is doing, in contradistinction to what the Indian industry does.

            Sure, you don’t need to say in the public domain what you must not. And I am NOT aking you to make them quit their jobs.

            Let us talk about liquor. These are purely MY views, which I do not impose on others.

            I do believe that liquor is a bad thing. It stinks, costs an awful lot of money, and is not good for health either. If bars were to be closed down, people who frequent tham would spend more time with their families.

            That being said, prohibition is difficult to enforce Alauddin Khilji put a ban on drinking in city limits. People would WALK more than 30 km for their drink. He threw them in dry wells as a punishment, and yet they persisted.

            So,combating liquor is a tough one.

    • Vivek S. Khadpekar permalink
      March 12, 2009 7:48 pm


      Dash it! Now we have to contend with the Punctuation Marks police!

      Moving on to the more serious issue, how come no one moots severe regulation of the manufacture and marketing of tobacco products for casual consumption? Because it militates against the spirit of the free market?

  9. March 10, 2009 10:06 pm

    @ Nita:
    Reflecting over the issues of smoking and its overall impact on the society can be done only when our physiological needs as a society are fulfilled. You are absolutely right in predicting and analyzing the trends. But I think we have to suffer heavily in order to kick start a campaign in the future. Personally I don’t give a damn about people smoking (its their lungs and their money) but I think they are selfish if they smoke in presence of others.

    btw, do you know what is the national sport of Russia?
    Ans: Smoking.

    Priyank, I too have heard that in Russia people a lot of people smoke…and I guess overall I think that stress is one of the reason why people turn to these addictive substances. – Nita.

  10. Milind Kher permalink
    March 10, 2009 10:23 pm


    The conclusion you have derived is not accurate. A “lot of people” is very different from everyone. everyone necessarily assigns a 100% probability to an event – which is not necessarily the case.

    If I make you stop laughing at my “ignorance”, are you going to stop? I think not, so enjoy 🙂

  11. March 10, 2009 10:47 pm

    To all, thanks for making this a lively discussion right at the start! I thought perhaps my post was pretty dull and would get a slow response and I am delighted to read everyone’s opinions here. I did not think of comparing smoking and drinking but thanks to Milind, am doing so right now! Actually, I always thought that smoking was worse than drinking as even one cigarette is harmful while a drink or two doesn’t cause any harm and may actually be good for health for a healthy, active individual. Ofcourse not many people actually stick to 1-2 drinks but then not many people stick to 1-2 cigarettes either. As some have mentioned here, what is objectionable about smoking is that others can get affected too. I also think that drinking as such does not make a person violent. It makes violent people more violent and loving people more loving and sentimental. That’s all. If a man needs to stop drinking to stop his violent behavior I think he is better off with therapy.
    But overall I think as long as we human beings live, there will always be some humans who get addicted to some intoxicating stuff and if these things are banned, they will get it somehow or the other! So no point banning anything.
    By the way I am in Matheran now! So won’t be seeing the comments tomorrow! Happy Holi.

    • March 10, 2009 11:59 pm

      Oh, Matheran, damn. 🙂 Come back with pictures from my most favorite hill station! Are we going to see you ride a horse?

      • March 12, 2009 2:56 pm

        Yep I rode a horse and muscles are aching as walked miles and miles! Right now too tired to read all the comments. But after a short nap I will read each one. Some interesting discussions are going on at my old posts! 🙂

        • Milind Kher permalink
          March 12, 2009 3:29 pm


          Welcome back. Dasturi to the top of Matheran is a gr8 cardio workout. Wow, you must’ve been hungry enough to eat a horse at the end of it.

          Meanwhile, you have got mail!

          Thanks Milind. Haven’t opened my mailbox yet but will be doing so shortly. – Nita.

  12. March 10, 2009 11:13 pm

    I had read this as soon as u posted and it came in my reader but got late in commenting. 🙂
    Happy Holi to u too!
    As for smoking, I was quite shocked at the excessive smoking shown in DevD. Wasn’t that (showing smoking in movies) banned or something?

    Smoking in movies is not banned and thank God for that! I mean they are just acting after all. The smoking in DevD was very much part of the story. Realism is what movie goers look for. – Nita.

  13. Kapil permalink
    March 10, 2009 11:14 pm

    Happy Holi ! I recall the old days at our ancestral WADA when we kids used to fear the “dunking” in the “Haud” on HOLIday.

    BTW, I can stick to 1-2 drinks & do not smoke !

    Might catch up with you in MATHERAN !

    • March 12, 2009 2:57 pm

      Hey Kapil, I didn’t see you at Matheran. Guess you went somewhere else then! As for the dunking I am still a kid! 😦 I fear the dunking and thus ran away!

      (P.S. For those who don’t know Kapil is my cousin. I was pretty surprised to see him here!)

  14. vasudev permalink
    March 10, 2009 11:15 pm

    pardon me but as an avid smoker i do feel that all this talk sponsored by the vested west and adopted by the slave indians is a lot of hogwash.
    let me tell you why.
    there was this kyoto protocol i think. it talked a lot about how the world was frying in its own heated breath. everyday we exume tons of obnoxious gases into the atmosphere. all those industries in mumbai suburbs and in chembur spew tons of co/co2/nox/sox and what not? what about those?
    what about the gases released by all those vehicles on the roads of mumbai and other indian cities?
    what about the fine dust you inhale through unbriddled real estate construction work? don’t all these lethal gases lead you to asthma/lung and liver cancer, not to say all the pesticide pollutants that lead to cancer of the colon?
    why isn’t the govt banning all vehicular movement which does not have sufficient catalytic converters and which do not use proper fuels?
    why doesn’t the govt contain pesticides and go for organic farming?
    why the govt does not stop pollutant effluents from dombivli industrial estates free-letting on the roads?
    why cannot the govt declare chembur as a no-pollution zone, free of ammoniacal fumes?
    on one side you see free permits/licences and more and more numbers of vehicular oems being given the green signal to operate in india.
    on the other side you see govt banning some puny smoke from some puny smoker, as if it is the devil bigger than devil itself.
    this is a policy of hiding the larger devil while making the smaller one look more evil.
    larger vested interests are at play globally. something more sinister is being hidden while the fool public attention is being diverted elsewhere.
    i have no faith in the current govt. if not slaves of vatican laws they definitely would side with anything their western masters would tell them to do.

  15. March 10, 2009 11:36 pm

    Nice article. I hope people simply realize the evil effects of smoking and stop smoking. The Picture message will be very effective in my opinion. I was thinking of “Why not ban Tobacco itself, like the other addictive drugs.” but then there will be lot of incentive for the underworld to traffic Tobacco along with whatever they had been doing.

    Thanks Dinesh. As you said the banning won’t work. People will get it anyhow, like they get drugs today. And drugs are far far more harmful! – Nita.

    • Vinod permalink
      March 11, 2009 7:54 am


      Saying that there are bigger problems than smoking, does not take away from the evil of smoking itself. There are efforts to deal with the bigger problems as well. The continued existence of the bigger problems and the hypocrisy demonstrated in dealing with them, does not prevent us from celebrating the benefits of dealing with the smaller problems. Mankind has not worked to resolve its problems by first preparing a sort list. That is just not the way things are done. In fact, it is arguable that’ll actually be a lousy way to resolve our problems. We probably can never agree on what the sort order should be. We will end up arguing forever on that and leave the problems unresolved.

      • vasudev permalink
        March 11, 2009 9:01 am


        personally i would be dumb if i do not agree with you and the society that smoking is indeed bad for the health. there are no arguments against that. but the way the goi is going about harrassing and isolating its smoking citizens while themselves being the biggest pollutants and mass scale smokers of india is what irritates me. the damage to a person’s lungs can more readily be caused by inhaling those fumes i mentioned about, the fumes which are govt sponsored. passive smoking would simply pale into insignificance in comparison to that. if the tobacco companies were willing to pay a large sum to the party kitty i am sure the state machinery could have been spared running after such minor incidences. the tobacco lobby refused to grease the palms of the ruling party. hence they came out with a vengeance. on the other hand, all those who pollute the nation even otherwise pay heavily the politicians of state and centre as well as connected officials. so this is ok. what irritates me too is the foolishness of the public which does not ask the govt pointed questions on why they allow the lungs of the masses to be coated with poisonous gases and micronic particulates which are not removable through natural cleaning action of the lung. the public can be led in one direction. i like to walk in the opposite!

        • Vinod permalink
          March 11, 2009 10:08 am

          Vasudev, Point well made and taken.

  16. March 11, 2009 8:54 am

    What is your take on Sheesha? Smoking Sheesha is gaining popularity in recent years and quite a few people smoke Sheesha in the impression that it is harmless. People should be made aware of the ill effects of smoking Sheesha especially young college students.
    I am personally in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, the reason is ill effects of passive smoking. Why should I suffer because of somebody else’s addiction?

  17. March 11, 2009 1:33 pm

    Happy Holi! Have a wonderful time at Matheran.

    I have seen my father smoking, and so have and do many of my friends. Those who have quit, only when they decided for themselves, and thought it was necessary.

    I am not sure how a ban will help. They always have a place somewhere to smoke. In fact, when the public smoking ban came into effect, I think I have been seeing more people smoking while driving!

    The pictures on the packets I believe would be in someway more impactful. But, that shall have to wait till May.

    • March 12, 2009 5:29 pm

      Aathira, the govt person at the conference was saying that they are having a very difficult time trying to enforce the pictorial warnings. The tobacco industry is up in arms and they reason they give is that if tobacco consumption decreases then it will leave a lot of people jobless. The government is fighting the court cases otherwise these warnings were to come into effect earlier. Even in May we have to keep our fingers crossed!

      • Milind Kher permalink
        March 12, 2009 5:44 pm


        There are over a million retailers in India who can run their shops and support their families only because of cigarettes. If cigarettes take a hit, their livelihood and welfare take a hit

        Add to this the people who do extensive tobacco cultivation. They too, will be out of a job.

        So, all this is easier said than done.

  18. March 11, 2009 3:39 pm


    This is a scourge that we need to join hands and try and marginalise if not eliminate from our lives.

    There was widespread criticism when smoking in public places was banned. The authorities held on and today it is accepted as normal. The other day I was reading that restaurants and bars have experienced a significant drop in indoor pollution.

    Good for us – non smokers.

    The entire cycle of tobacco industry has to be studied and efforts made to divert lands from tobacco cultivation. This will require immense political will. Andhra Pradesh is one of the biggest producer of tobacco and that state has a strong lobby to oversee the state’s interests.

    Further, beedi manufacturing is one of the bigest employer. There are socio factors that need to be taken into account so that these industries can be phased out over a defined period of time along with sustainable rehabilitation of the affected.

    As some comments did talk of many other pollutants and killers out there doing equal damage if not more. I guess we need to tackle them one by one. Organic farming is taking baby steps and soon we may see a legal mandate to implement that. Our fuels are much cleaner than they were about fifteen years back.

    Activism and a responsive political class would help immensely.

    Mavin, you have raised a very pertinent point as this is what the government is in a bind over! The loss of employment if tobacco consumption decreases or is controlled! Being a poor country this is of critical importance to us! There was also a presentation as the conference on the alternative crops that could be encouraged instead of tobacco but as you said it needs immense political will! – Nita.

  19. wishtobeanon permalink
    March 11, 2009 5:50 pm

    I am glad for the public-smoking ban in the city that I live in(People are allowed to smoke in designated areas). We(including my kids) are able to enjoy places like restaurants, malls, bowling alleys etc. without having to inhale smoke. Smoking is no longer seen as ‘cool’ as it is associated with lung cancer and various other illnesses. I guess implementing and enforcing smoking bans in India will be just as hard as enforcing any other law like traffic rules, building violations, littering etc.

    Yeah, smoking is not cool at all. Its uncool but unfortunately from what I see around me, this feeling hasn’t permeated here! – Nita.

  20. wishtobeanon permalink
    March 11, 2009 6:00 pm

    I agree with vasudev’s comment -‘but the way the goi is going about harrassing and isolating its smoking citizens while themselves being the biggest pollutants and mass scale smokers of india is what irritates me. the damage to a person’s lungs can more readily be caused by inhaling those fumes i mentioned about, the fumes which are govt sponsored. passive smoking would simply pale into insignificance in comparison to that’.
    If only we had more educated politicians who favored and gave importance to both science and the environment!

    wishtobeanon, the groups which are fighting against smoking are different from those fighting against other things. So if one group seems more vociferous than another, the credit goes to that group. Also I think our govt, is doing a lot to reduce pollution. CNG has been introduced on rickshaws for example. Pollution in Delhi for eg has gone down due to the efforts of the government! Today we have lead free petrol unlike a decade ago and the gov is not phasing out old vehicles despite a lot of opposition from truck owners. A lot of things are being done and yes they are being publicized too. Nita.

  21. March 11, 2009 6:42 pm

    Strangely enough, I was asked to do the PR for this event!! 😀
    I told them it’s against whatever little ethics I have since I’m a smoker myself… Damn, I missed a chance to make some good money…
    But yes, unfortunately, the average age of the smoker in India is on the decline, according to one of their reports… Shit!

  22. Naveen permalink
    March 11, 2009 7:20 pm

    This short film says it all very well

  23. March 11, 2009 7:41 pm

    I guess one of the main reasons of smoking is the modern lifestyle. Smoking or infact any kind of addiction provides a temporary “escape” from the harsh reality of Indian life.

    Any idea of how many “stay-at-home” mothers actually smoke????

    i am sure the number will be very small.

  24. March 12, 2009 4:34 am

    Nita, as you have rightly pointed out, we have the advantage of knowing jut how uncool smoking is. I think the ban on smoking in public places and inside houses is not a bad idea at all.
    California — where I live now — has (thank God!) some of the strictest laws against smoking. In the university town of Berkeley, you cannot smoke inside your house either. You have go out for a smoke. Also, restaurants and other public places disallow smoking.
    Implementation will be the toughest challenge in India. We will have to accomplish this the way we managed to cut down the population growth rate: through years of public awareness programs and persuasion.
    P.S. About lower-income classes chewing tobacco, my understanding was that it also served as a pain-killer, especially for the women, since they don’t have access to adequate healthcare. Did this come up during the tobacco event? You know anything about it?

    • March 12, 2009 5:45 pm

      Snigdha, I didn’t know that any country or state had a law prohibiting smoking inside the house! About the tobacco being a painkiller, yes I have heard of it, but never heard about any presentation in the tobacco event on this. It’s sad isn’t it, that they use tobacco to kill hunger and aches and pains and then finally die a slow lingering and painful death! I personally know two people from the poor classes who died or oral cancer. It’s horrible!

      • March 13, 2009 6:35 am


        Just be clear that I misspoke in my previous comment. Yes, California has one of the strictest smoking laws. Berkeley passed a new law to ban smoking on sidewalks. Link here:
        The town that has introduced a new law to ban smoking inside apartments is Belmont. Here’s the link:

        Sorry about that! I lived in Berkeley and always found people leave their homes to smoke. So got confused with all the bans!
        Not that they are not controversial. The links will tell you that some people aren’t happy with the bans.

        Yes, indeed, it’s heartbreaking to see people resort to tobacco for pain and hunger.

  25. March 12, 2009 6:27 am

    Hey! I saw this advt on youtube:

  26. March 12, 2009 8:17 pm

    Nita, thanks for bringing these things into the awareness of your fellow people, it is such an important work!

  27. Seeker permalink
    March 12, 2009 9:44 pm

    I believe that smoking is harmful and I think smokers are obligated to not smoke around non-smokers who object. However,I don’t agree with banning smoking in restaurants, bars etc. These are privately-owned places and they should retain the right to designate smoking areas if they choose. If the smoking policy of a particular restaurant bothers you, don’t go!
    As for banning smoking inside people’s homes!, what’s next, monitoring their intake of fat and sugar? After all, that can be just as harmful over the long run as smoking, if not more.

  28. Milind Kher permalink
    March 12, 2009 10:06 pm

    It is good that consciousness regarding what is harmful is increasing. Please do go to the link pasted below. You will find a lot that has been said on the dangers of addiction.

  29. openlight permalink
    March 12, 2009 10:07 pm

    Good article about the upswing of smoking trends, even though the topic of smoking and its ill effects is very old and from ages its written on the pack that ‘it is injurious to health’.

    Economic liberation has made individuals especially the youth freedom that their parents hadn’t had so, they are anxious and ready to try out all those ‘cool’ and ‘modern’ stuff that their parents didn’t had (smoking,drinks,drugs,fast food) and they are or will suffer.

    It feels more pain that even educated youth although aware of consequences, are taking it and are addicted to it. I will also attribute BPO (multi or night shift) a major contributor to this trend as one needs a kick to be awake whole night.

    I do not smoke, and hate it to hilt and considers smokers as emotional / physical weak persons who are handicapped and need its support to live.

    Thats why when I am in public place, I am extra concious of my surrounding to observe any incidence of second hand smoke, and request to detest the person who may start or had started smoking.I do not preach the ill effect but, fight if no option of persuading the person. Though my humble request make them leave the stuff till we both move out from the place (till date).

    I think that smoking ban is OK but, showing Pictorial warnings will show the consequences of their seniors and will punch it in the sub-conscious mind of the smoker. But, one problem, if person buys individual cigarette then, it will be ineffective.

    Rest for those who are willing to kick the habit but are unable to do it, I suggest to try the electric cigarette

    Electric cigarette though expensive now, works out cheap for smokers, easy to control and limit one’s addiction level and the major benefit like drink, no second-hand smoke affects. Govt. should use it as an effective tool to in clinics / rehabilitation center for persons to get over the addiction.

  30. March 13, 2009 12:17 am

    We were working on a similar cause as well on –
    which was the initiative of Salaam Bombay to get a feedback about tobacco from Internet users, youth etc. there are quite a few who are against smoking…and as far as people losing their jobs is concerned if tobacco is banned then the govt should obv compensate them, and get the farmers to grow some other crops. Is there any medicinal use of tobacco?

  31. wishtobeanon permalink
    March 13, 2009 7:36 pm

    Hi Nita, here’s a link on the harmful effects of smoking on different parts of the body:
    I hope some of your ‘smoking’ readers will read it and think about quitting.

  32. vasudev permalink
    March 15, 2009 7:37 pm

    if this chap, anbumani or whatever his name is, was serious about making indians quit smoking then he should have made the electronic cigarette legal and easily available everywhere. now what he and his joker party is doing is as plain as black ink on plain white.

  33. March 17, 2009 4:46 am

    • Air pollution decreases due to decrease in cigarette smoke.

    What about Banning breathing? Air pollution will decrease if people are not allowed to breath you know!

    • Helps in controlling tobacco consumption amongst people (proven by research in various countries)
    There are various researches in almost all of those countries which reasonably wipes out this propaganda.

    Anyways, that doesn’t matter. Calling tobacco smoking an epidemic itself is a propaganda, and Ayurvedic treatment includes Tobacco as a genuine medicinal herb.
    Many nations including USA and India have tried to patent tobacco too for its medicinal uses.

    Banning smoking or allowing it is the matter of property owner, without property rights, there cannot be any justified consensus on any such notorious act. It has been provable observed that the high profile lobbyists, lawyers and law-makers often suggests such bans to increase tax collections and fines on the name of public-health-care by promoting the robbery under government’s hand.

    When the Indian police is simply unable to safeguard the common citizens against the real crime, any proposal to ban smoking and than forcing Police to check out for the breach of any such ban is nothing but promoting non-productive-activities and forcing the expense on the tax-payers.

    About air-pollution, I find it funny, why not ban government officials and ministers and politicians from using airplanes, helicopters, cars, trains etc for their trips?

    In the upcoming elections, at least Rs10,000 crores will be wasted for a basically worthless process which will include huge fuel-consumption increasing pollution, so if government bans itself, its officials, and ministers and politicians from using tax-payers or contributors money in political travels and rallies, that will make the Air much more pollution free.
    But then you will demand a ban for fuel usage.
    Tobacco is not an epidemic, air pollution coming from vehicles causes much more health issues including lung cancer, asthma, heart failures, depression, irritations, alergies and many more. So let us ban using cars, scooters, mopeds, and what not lol.

    Now you will say better is to support green-revolution. The problem is, Solar Cells uses Lead Selenide (PbSe) as the major constituent, and that is much more toxic than a ton of tobacco and causes extreme health issues on human. That is, green energy is much more dangerous than using petroleum to travell.

    May be you will demand only horses to be allowed for travelling purposes isn’t it? That will decrease Air Pollution to the limits of the dark-ages.

    I wonder why even the educated people avoid using their own brains before propagandizing such brainless issues.

    No matter crime rate is increasing extremely in all major cities and government police is a failure (infact police is the biggest criminal) these propagandists want police to check, catch and fine the smokers. Isn’t it silly?

    Now some idiots will say increase police officers, and hence fuck the indian tax-payers.
    Why cannot they understand that policing is a non-productive-activity. So why force public to waste their efforts on that?
    Best way possible is privatizing the public places, and then let the owner decide whether he want people to smoke in his premises or not.

    The other issue of “SHS” is nothing but extreme joke. any 10 millionth of a tobacco leaf MAY have a diseased cancerous tissue which may harm the smoker. When even the smoker is NOT in danger of any sort by smoking, how come others will be in danger?

    What more you want? Ban the people suffering from cold or sneezes or other contagious allergies from entering the public space? Banning patients suffering from various contagious ills roaming on roads and visiting a cinema hall?
    Even AIDS patients should not be allowed to enter public space because although AIDS is not contagious by simple means, yet the AIDS patient may have many other ills as he has no immunity left in him to depress the diseases.

    All these talks comes from the Anti-Human feelings, the feelings of hatred of human towards others.

    If you do not like smoking, don’t smoke.

    If you do not like being with smokers, don’t allow anyone smoke in your property where you have right.

    No government has any right over public space, and no majority have any right over the minority to deny them from smoking.

    All these banning attitude is tyranny of Majority over Minority.
    There must be Minority rights to safeguard the minority (that is smokers) against the anti-humanity tactics of these anti-tobacco propagandists.

    They are no better than the RSS chaddiwallas who attacked girls and boys in mangalore pub against their freedom to choose to drink alcohol.

    The Only difference is, that Ram Sena attacked by themselves, but these neo-fascists want the totalitarian government to rob, loot and victimize the smokers which are a minority in every sense.

    • vasudev permalink
      March 21, 2009 4:46 pm


      Now I have to moot something and this is a more meaningful solution:

      let the country reserve some districts only for smokers/drug addicts/drunkards/. all the smokers/sinners/call girls and other perpetual offenders of others delicate innards may kindly shift to the smoking states and all non-smokers/non drinkers and the puritans may please shift to the purile ones.

      problem solved!

  34. vasudev permalink
    March 21, 2009 5:00 pm

    despite all these precautions the world over the incidences of cancerous deaths have only alarmingly increased! there is a true saying: ‘ignorance is bliss’. sometimes unnecessary inputs can cause more harm than good and it is well known that cancer starts at the thought level…which means man is quite capable of starting his own cancer by his mere thoughts and all that the media and govts do is to make man do just that!

    decades ago there were britishers who used to be more actively involved in conquering the wolrd and developing it while puffing like a steam locomotive.

    indian natives used to live 90plus while chewing tobacco and puffing bidhis. so what is it that changed all of a sudden to make a generation of people so afraid of being sick that they would even stop breathing next?

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