AsianScientist (Jan. 2, 2019) – In a study published in the journal Tobacco Control, a researcher in India has highlighted the economic costs of smoking bidi—an inexpensive cigarette consisting of unprocessed tobacco wrapped in leaves.
Bidi is very popular in India, with 72 million regular users over the age of 15 and accounting for 81 percent of the tobacco smoked in the country. Although bidi contains less tobacco than conventional cigarettes, the nicotine content is significantly higher, and the relatively low burn point forces smokers to breathe in more of the harmful chemicals produced.
Bidi smoking is implicated in several types of cancer, tuberculosis and various long-term lung conditions. The financial toll taken by bidi smoking in India has never been calculated.
To estimate the direct and indirect costs of ill health and early deaths attributable to bidi smoking, Dr. Rijo M John of the Center for Public Policy Research, India, drew on several sources of national and international data collected in 2017. Focusing on 30–69 year-olds—of which one in four regularly smoke bidi—he found that bidi smoking cost India INR 805.5 billion (US$12.4 billion) in 2017.
Approximately 21 percent of the direct economic burden of bidi smoking arose from diagnostic tests, drugs, doctors’ fees, hospital stays and transportation associated with the habit. The remaining indirect costs were due to accommodation arrangements for caregivers and loss of household income.
Nearly one in five households in India faces catastrophic expenditures due to healthcare costs, with more than 63 million people pushed into poverty as a result, John noted.
“Diseases associated with bidi smoking add to this, potentially pushing more people into poverty,” said John, suggesting that about 15 million face poverty because of spending on tobacco and associated health costs. “Expenditure on tobacco also crowds out expenditure on food and education in India, especially among the poor.”
The researcher added that despite overwhelming evidence on the effectiveness of taxing tobacco products, taxation as a tool to regulate bidi smoking has been highly underutilized in India. He call for a tax hike on bidi tobacco to halt its unfettered consumption.
“Allowing bidi consumption to continue unhindered would make income distribution even more regressive, as the poor will continue to bear a disproportionately large share of economic costs from bidi smoking due to their higher bidi smoking prevalence,” he concluded.
The article can be found at: John (2018) Economic Costs of Diseases and Deaths Attributable to Bidi Smoking in India, 2017.
Source: BMJ; Photo: Pixabay
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