World Tobacco Atlas rings alarm bells for India

NEW DELHI: Expanse of tobacco cultivation in India is large enough to house over 4.81 lakh soccer fields.

Tobacco is grown in 124 countries, occupying 3.8 million hectares of agricultural land.

Tobacco Plant

Tobacco field

The Atlas says each hectare of land devoted to tobacco produced one tonne of tobacco leaf, while a similar size of plot growing potatoes had a yield of 14.6 tonnes in the same year.

The Atlas pegs India’s direct healthcare costs due to tobacco at $1,195 million.

The Planning Commission says that revenue collected from tobacco products annually in India is $1.62 billion (largely coming from taxation of cigarettes), while the annual direct health cost of three tobacco- related diseases (cancer, coronary artery diseases and chronic obstructive lung diseases) is $6.32 billion.

World tobacco production peaked in 1997 at over 9 million tonnes, and has since declined by almost a quarter to 7.1 million tonnes in 2009.

Worryingly, 20,000 hectares of forests across the globe annually are being cleared to cure tobacco. In 2009, six of the 10 tobacco producing countries, including India, had undernourishment rates between 5% and 27%.

About half of the tobacco leaves produced in developing countries in Africa and Asia are cured (dried out for cigarette production) with wood. An average of 7.8 kg of wood is needed to cure 1 kg of tobacco. The Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal estimated that the historical use of fuel wood between 1962 and 2002, for tobacco curing and manufacture of cigarettes, has destroyed and degraded 680 sq km of scrub forests, or nearly 868 million tonnes of wood through successive extraction.


* More than one-third of adults (35%) use tobacco in India, or 274.9 million;

* 163.7 million use only smokeless tobacco; 68.9 million are only smokers and 42.3 million users of both smoking and smokeless tobacco;

* 14.1% children in the age group of 13-15 years are consuming tobacco in some form;

* Bidis, along with smokeless tobacco, account for 81% of the Indian tobacco market;

* India is also the second largest consumer and second largest producer of tobacco in the world, second only to China;

* The prevalence of overall tobacco use among males is 48% and among females is 20%;

* Nearly two in five adults (38%) in rural areas and one in four adults (25%) in urban areas use tobacco in some form;

* The extent of use of smokeless tobacco products among males (33%) is higher than among females (18%).

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