Guwahati: A new study by Rajagiri College of Social Sciences published in the Journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research has, for the first time, quantified the “tremendous economic burden” of secondhand smoke exposure in India. 

According to the findings, secondhand smoke causes Rs 567 billion in health care costs annually, which accounts for 8 per cent of total annual health care expenditures on top of the staggering 1773.4 billion Indian rupees ($27.5 billion) in annual economic burden from tobacco use. 

For the first time, this new study sheds light on the immense financial toll of secondhand smoke on the Indian healthcare system. It also finds that the cost of secondhand smoke disproportionately affects India’s most vulnerable populations, including women, youth, and those with lower incomes. Researchers from the Rajagiri College of Social Sciences used public data sources and a prevalence-based attributable risk approach to quantify the healthcare cost of continued exposure to secondhand smoke among non-smokers aged 15 and older. The Rs 567 billion figure represents only one part of the total economic costs of secondhand 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 secondhand smoke exposure, which would further increase the final figure.

Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke kill nearly 1.2 million Indians each year.  

With more than 100 million smokers in India, non-smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke at home, at work, and in public places. 

There is no known safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals that are known to cause premature death and disease in children and adults who do not smoke. 

“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 567B in health care costs caused by exposure to secondhand smoke,” according to Dr Rijo John, economist and author of the study. 

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. Both recommend that India strengthen its laws to effectively protect non-smokers from the health and economic impact of secondhand smoke

 Advocate Ajoy Hazarika, Secretary, Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam said, “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 2003 to remove all designated smoking areas from public places to make India smoke free and raising taxes on all tobacco products are important decisions required now. These will help millions of Indians to quit and prevent youngsters from initiating tobacco use.   

According to Health Expert, “The findings 

of this new study demonstrate the terrible economic toll that secondhand smoke takes on both the Indian health care system and the secondhand smoke-exposed non-smokers. Those most affected by these costs are often the most economically vulnerable – women, young people, and those with lower incomes. Action must be taken by COTPA Amendment to reduce the health and economic impact of secondhand smoke in India,” 

The Government of India has started the COTPA Amendment process. Earlier one of the surveys conducted last year by Consumer VOICE in India revealed that 72% believe second-hand smoke is a serious health hazard 70%said that it bothers them to be exposed to second-hand smoke. 88% of people strongly support the strengthening of the current tobacco control law to address this menace by removing Designated Smoking Areas in public places like restaurants, bars, hotels, airports. 

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