Post B: Tobacco in India

Where does this leave our youth?

India is the second largest consumer of tobacco in the world, The use of tobacco among adults (15 years and above) is 35% (Rani et al., 2003). Among males it is 48%, and that among females is 20%. Close to 38% of adults in rural areas and 25% of adults in urban areas will use tobacco in some form (Kaur and Jain, 2011).

India was among the first few countries to join WHO the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2004 (Kaur and Jain, 2011). However despite India’s WHO FCTC early involvement, the effectiveness of tobacco control initiatives are staggered at different rates across its states due to non prioritisation of this issue (Tobacco Free Initiative, 2015).

Since their involvement different government based initiatives have been implemented such as in 1975, a statutory warning “cigarette smoking is injurious to health” became a mandatory requirement to be displayed on all cigarette packaging (Kaur and Jain, 2011). 

A public space ban Memorandum issued by the Cabinet Secretariat in 1990, prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to and by minors (persons below 18 years). As well as, not allowing tobacco products to be sold within 100 yards of all educational institutions. Specifically protecting the youth of India along with a number of other prohibitions including no smoking in public spaces and a ban on tobacco advertising.

(Mobilising Youth for Tobacco Related Initiatives in India)

A challenge however that’s being faced, and requires serious attention is the taxation of tobacco related products. At the moment an average pack of ‘bidis’ (thin tobacco cigarettes) costs only Rs 4 with the tax averaging around 9% of the retail price. This ultimately means the products remain quite inexpensive and affordable even for school children (John et al., 2008). This poses a serious threat to the youth of India as if this were to continue on, over 38 million bidi smokers will die prematurely from diseases caused by tobacco use (John et al., 2008). 

(Mobilising Youth for Tobacco Related Initiatives in India)

According to the World Health Organisation, nearly 80 percent of all adult smokers begin before 18, and in just India alone 5500 youth begin smoking a day. So to combat this the Bloomberg Initiative began a HRIDAY’s school-based tobacco use prevention program Project MYTRI (Mobilising Youth for Tobacco Related Initiatives in India). A two-year school intervention, based on social cognitive theory, involving four primary components (MH et al., 2007);

  1. Classroom curriculum
  2. School posters
  3. Parent postcards
  4. Peer-led health activism
(Mobilising Youth for Tobacco Related Initiatives in India)

These School intervention activities enhanced awareness and advocacy skills of adolescents through campaigns, such as the submission of a signature campaign to the Prime Minister of India appealing for a ban on tobacco advertisements in India. The results of the outcome evaluation revealed that over the two-year intervention period, students were less likely to show an increase in cigarette and bidi smoking, and they were also significantly less likely to express intentions to smoke or chew tobacco in the future.


Kaur, J. and Jain, D. (2011). Tobacco Control Policies in India: Implementation and Challenges, Indian Journal of Public Health, viewed 9 January 2019. 


Tobacco Free Initiative. (2015). Tobacco control in India, World Health Organisation, viewed 10 January 2019.


Chatterjee, M. (2012). Engaging the Youth in Tobacco Control: The Real Investment, Youth Ki Awaaz, viewed 9 January 2019


John, R., Kavita Rao, R., Govinda Rao, M., Moore, J., Deshpande, R., Sengupta, J., Selvaraj, S., Chaloupka, F. and Jha, P. (2008). Tobacco Taxes in India. Tobacco Economics, India: Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, viewed 9 January 2019


MH, S., CL, P., M, A., R, S., C, M. and KS, R. (2007). Intermediate outcomes from Project MYTRI: mobilizing youth for tobacco-related initiatives in India, NCBI, viewed on 10 January 2019


Rani, M., Bonu, S., Jha, P., Nguyen, S. and Jamjoum, L. (2003). Tobacco Control. 12th ed. [ebook] Baltimore, p.4, viewed on 10 January 2019,


One thought on “Post B: Tobacco in India

  1. Very interesting read about the approach towards reducing tobacco consumption in India. I found that South Africa also has some very similar issues, with having poorly implemented or non-existent government led programmes which discourage tobacco use. It does seem as though these governments do not have this at the top of their priority list like you stated, hopefully this changes in the future.

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