India could be facing alarming rise in tobacco use

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday February 17, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Thursday February 16, 2006.

India could be facing a new wave of increased tobacco use, according to an Article published in this week's issue of The Lancet. Study researchers found that sixth-grade students (average age 11 years) in Delhi and Chennai used significantly more tobacco than eighth-grade students (average age 13 years). Early use of tobacco predicts greater likelihood of addiction, longer lifetime use, and higher rates of lung cancer, state the authors.

Cheryl Perry (University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis, MN, USA) and colleagues surveyed over 11 600 students in the sixth and eight grades about their use of chewing tobacco, cigarettes, and bidis (hand-rolled cigarettes). The investigators found that boys, those in government schools, and in the sixth grade were more likely to use tobacco than students in private schools, who were female and in the eighth grade.

Dr Perry states: "The difference in rates of tobacco use between the sixth and eight grades, and the replication of this difference in two cities, in government schools, and for boys and girls, strongly suggests that sixth-grade students in urban India use tobacco at two to four times the rate that eight graders do…These findings might indicate the initial wave of a large increase in tobacco use in India, which is alarming and warrants confirmation and early intervention in young students."

An accompanying Editorial in this week's issue states that even though India acted quickly to comply with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)--the first international treaty to focus on public health--more effort is needed to halt the rise in tobacco use.

The Lancet comments: "Findings published in this week's issue suggest that in India, which strengthened its laws against tobacco advertising in 2003 to bring it into line with the FCTC provisions, a new wave of tobacco use is taking hold among young people. [In India], the proportion of all deaths that can be attributed to tobacco is expected to rise to 13.3% in 2020."

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Contact: Cheryl Perry, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, Suite 300, 1300 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis, MN 55454-1015, USA. T) +1 612 624 4188 perry@epi.umn.edu


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