Friday, April 20, 2012

138 million Indian smokers do not know tobacco causes stroke

NEW DELHI: Nearly 138 million Indian smokers do not know that smoking tobacco causes stroke.

As many as 92 million on the other hand aren't aware that tobacco causes heart disease.

According to a report released on Friday by the World Heart Federation, half of all Chinese smokers and one-third of Indian and Vietnamese smokers are unaware of the risks tobacco poses to our heart.

Awareness of the risk of secondhand smoke is even lower.

Around 275 million Indians consume tobacco which has 3095 chemical components - 28 of which are proven carcinogens tha can cause cancer According to WHF, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world's leading cause of death, killing 17.3 million people every year.

Eighty per cent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries like India, which are increasingly being targeted by the tobacco industry.

Tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure causes about one-tenth of global deaths from CVD.

Even smoking a few cigarettes a day significantly increases the risk of heart disease. Smokeless tobacco products have also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of heart disease by 25 per cent and more than 87 per cent of worldwide adult deaths caused by secondhand smoke are attributable to CVD.

The report, entitled "Cardiovascular harms from tobacco use and secondhand smoke" was commissioned by the WHF and written by the International Tobacco Control Project (ITC Project), in collaboration with the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization. Professor Geoffrey T Fong at the University of Waterloo, Canada and chief principal Investigator of the ITC Project, said "This report shows a broad correlation between poor knowledge of the risks of tobacco use and high levels of smoking prevalence. To break this link and reduce the deadly toll of tobacco, more needs to be done to increase awareness of the specific health harms."

Professor Fong added "Our research shows that the risks of tobacco use to lung health are very widely accepted. But we need to attain the same level of knowledge and awareness that tobacco use can cause heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease and secondhand smoke can cause heart attack."

According to Fong, health warning labels are known to be an effective method for educating the public on the health harms of tobacco products.

A number of countries have introduced warnings about the increased risk of heart disease or heart attack, but no country has yet implemented a label to warn people that secondhand smoke causes heart disease.

Johanna Ralston, CEO of World Heart Federation, commented: "If people don't know about the cardiovascular effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure, they cannot understand how much or how quickly smokers are endangering not only their own lives, but those of family members, friends, co-workers or other non-smokers who breathe tobacco smoke. In countries like India or China, so many people are at high risk for heart attack or stroke, and it strikes at a relatively early age: risks of CVD are far more present and immediate than most of the better-known fatal effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure."

According to him, knowing about cardiovascular risks of tobacco will help smokers take quitting seriously, and encourage people to demand and comply with policies that protect everyone from the harms of tobacco.

The report, which presents data from two major global tobacco research and surveillance studies - the Global Tobacco Surveillance System (GTSS) and the ITC Project - recommends three steps to reduce the current and future cases of CVD due to tobacco use - which may total over 100 million people - among the one billion people throughout the world who smoke today, and of their families exposed to secondhand smoke:

"Increase the price of tobacco products, eliminate tobacco promotion and marketing and Implement 100 per cent smokefree laws in workplaces and public places - which is proven to significantly lower hospital admissions for heart attacks," it suggested.

A recent WHO report had said that almost 2 in 5 deaths among adults aged 30 years and above in India are caused due to smokeless tobacco. According to WHO's "Mortality attributable to tobacco report" globally 12% of all deaths among adults aged 30 years and over were due to smokeless tobacco in 2004 compared with 16% in India, 17% in Pakistan and 31% in Bangladesh.

Direct tobacco smoking was responsible for 5 million deaths. Another 6 lakh people died from second-hand smoke. Over the next 20 years, the annual death toll from tobacco will be 8 million, with more than 80% of those deaths projected to occur in low- and middle-income countries.

WHO says tobacco could, in the 21st century, kill over 1 billion people. Many think smokeless tobacco is safer than the smoking form. However that's not really true.

Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director, Voluntary Health Association of India added "2500 people die every day due to tobacco related diseases in India. Display of harsher pictorial warnings on tobacco products is one of the most effective tool to reduce tobacco consumption. Chewing tobacco and gutka itself contributes to 90% of oral cancer cases in the country," she said.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco India Survey (GATS), 21% of the country's population is addicted to smokeless tobacco alone and another 5% percent smoke as well as use smokeless tobacco.

Among smokeless tobacco products, khaini is used the most, followed by gutkha. Around 91% of female tobacco users use smokeless products like betel quid with tobacco is used the most, followed by gutkha and khaini.

According to GATS, India spends approximately Rs 300 billion annually in both public and private spending on treatment of tobacco related illness, accounting for roughly one fourth of all health spending.

The World lung Organisation recently said that globally, tobacco-related deaths have nearly tripled in the past decade, and tobacco is responsible for more than 15% of all male deaths and 7% of female deaths. The World Tobacco Atlas says more than 43 trillion cigarettes have been smoked in the last 10 years and cigarette production has increased by 16.5% in that time period.

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