Smoking kills, but most smokers still don’t know how. One in two Indian smokers isn’t aware that tobacco addiction can lead to stroke and 38% that it can cause heart disease.
These are some of the startling findings of a World Heart Federation report that will be released at the World Congress of Cardiology (WCC) in Dubai on Saturday.
India is high on tobacco addiction. It has 138 million smokers and 28% of its people in the 15-49 age group use tobacco in some form or the other. Bidis are the most popular (48%) followed by tobacco-chewing (38%) and cigarettes (14%).
Every year, tobacco kills 1 million people in India. Heart disease caused by it accounts for the highest number of deaths (29%).
Data from Indian Heart Watch — the country’s largest heart-risk survey of 6,000 people across 11 cities over five years — presented at the WCC on Friday found awareness among tobacco users shockingly low.
While people in smaller cities smoked more and ate more fatty food than fresh fruits and vegetables, those in the metros were less active. Obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol were uniformly high. Awareness and control rates of risk factors were low even among literate middle-class urban Indians.
Roughly one in three surveyed had hypertension but only 57% knew about it. Among those diagnosed with hypertension, 40% were on medicines and only 25% had it under control.
“To get people to quit tobacco, the policies must focus on clearly informing the people through effective measures, such as pictorial warnings on tobacco products depicting heart disease and stroke as real dangers,” said Dr K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India.