By Rajiv Shah
Has Gujarat faltered in the fight against tobacco vis-à-vis other states? It would seem so, despite the data suggesting the percentage of men and women using “some form of tobacco” (smoking cigarettes, bidis, cigars, pipe, hookah, chewing paan with tobacco, using gutkha or paan masala with tobacco, using khaini, using usoing snuff etc.) have come down considerably.
The National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) data for 2015-16, released a year ago, suggest that 51 per cent of men and seven per cent of women in the age group 15-49 “use some form of tobacco”, which is seventh highest among 21 major Indian states.
A similar household survey held a decade earlier (NFHS-3), which took place in 2005-06, suggested that 10 per cent more men (60%) used “some form of tobacco”. As for women, in 2005-06, the tobacco use was found to be eight per cent. However, at that time, as many as nine other major states out of 19 for which survey results have been obtained had a higher percent of men and women using tobacco.
Referring to Gujarat, the NFHS-4 report states, “Men are much more likely to use gutkha or paan masala with tobacco (34%) than to use other types of tobacco.” It adds, “Among men, the use of any form of tobacco is higher in rural areas than in urban areas with gutkha or paan masala with tobacco, followed by bidis, being especially popular in rural areas. Half of the men who smoke cigarettes or bidis smoked 10 or more cigarettes or bidis in the past 24 hours.”
Making an almost similar observation, the NFHS-3 report says, “Women and men who use tobacco are most likely to chew tobacco in the form of paan masala, gutkha, or other tobacco. Among men who use tobacco, smoking cigarettes or bidis is also quite common. Tobacco use is more common in rural areas than in urban areas.”
A comparison of the two sets of data suggests that, in the fight against tobacco, things failed to improve as fast as they did in other states. Thus, while in 2005-06 Gujarat had the 10th hi
ghest percentage of men in the age group 15-49 using any form of tobacco, in 2015-16, Gujarat became the seventh highest state percentage of men using tobacco.
Similarly, if in 2005-06, Gujarat had the ninth highest percentage of women using tobacco, the state “improved” its position to become the seventh highest percentage of women using tobacco.
The six states where a higher proportion men using tobacco than Gujarat (51.4 per cent) in 2015-16 were: Assam 63.9 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 59.5 per cent, West Bengal 58.8 per cent, Odisha 55.9, Chhattisgarh 55.2, and Uttar Pradesh 53 per cent.
As against this, the nine state where a higher percentage of men used tobacco in 2005-06 than Gujarat (60.2 per cent) were: Assam 72.4 per cent, West Bengal 70.2 per cent, Odisha 68.8 per cent, Chhattisgarh 68.6 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 68.5 per cent, Bihar 66.5 per cent, Uttar Pradesh, 64.3 per cent, Jharkhand 61.7 per cent, and Rajasthan 60.4 per cent.
Similarly, as for women, Gujarat’s 7.4 per cent of women used tobacco in 2015-16, as against a higher percentage of six other states: Chhattisgarh 21.6 per cent, Assam 19.7 per cent, Odisha 17.3 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 10.4 per cent, West Bengal 8.7 per cent, and Uttar Pradesh 7.6 per cent.
In 2005-06, Gujarat’s 8.4 per cent women used tobacco, and the nine states where a higher percentage of women used tobacco were Odisha 31.4 per cent, Chhattisgarh 25.2 per cent, Assam 23.2 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 16 per cent, West Bengal 15.6 per cent, Uttar Pradesh 12.1 per cent, Jharkhand 11.6 per cent, and Maharashtra 10.5 per cent.
What is of equal significance is, the percentage of men and women using tobacco in Gujarat is much higher than the all-India average. Thus, In 2015-16, the gap was about six per cent for men: In Gujarat, 51.4 per cent men used tobacco, as against the all-India average of 44.8 per cent.
As for women, thought the gap is less than one per cent (Gujarat 7.4 per cent, as against India 6.8 per cent), what is of no less significant is, Gujarat women’s average was 8.4 per cent, lower than the national average (10.8 per cent).
There is also a rural-urban difference in the use of tobacco. Thus, in 2015-16, the NHFS-4 data suggest, 5.2 per cent urban women used “any form of tobacco”, it is quite high in rural areas: 9.1 per cent. Things are not very different for men: if 46 per cent men used tobacco in the urban areas, its usage was 56.2 per cent in rural areas.
The situation has deteriorated despite the fact that, under Narendra Modi, as chief minister of Gujarat, the state launched a ‘Tobacco Free Gujarat’ campaign in 2011, covering the state’s districts and seven municipal corporations of the state.
The campaign’s aim was to create awareness against the use of tobacco, with the state government declaring also declaring formation of five mobile flying squads with mobile vans, consisting of a police inspector and a health functionary, to take action against the use of tobacco in spots near places where the consumption of tobacco is prohibited, such as schools, educational institutions, public places, etc.