Smokeless tobacco: A new epidemic in Southeast Asia

A new study states that demand for smokeless tobacco products on the rise. It has replaced the preference for smoking in Southeast Asia. The study also emphasised that countries need to strengthen its policies for smokeless tobacco products too as it is equally harmful as smoking

Smokeless tobacco: A new epidemic in South East Asia
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  • While the government and anti-tobacco activists have been doing their best to curb tobacco addiction in the country, a new study published Nicotine and Tobacco Research says smokeless tobacco is now a major concern as it is ‘replacing’ the smoking epidemic in the Southeast Asia Region.
  • The study says the sustained anti-tobacco campaign has driven tobacco companies and smokers to look for alternative choices, such as smokeless tobacco (SLT) products.

“In the study, we have seen that in Southeast Asia, there has been a clear shift in the product preference from smoking to smokeless tobacco. One prime reason is misleading advertising by tobacco companies,” said Dr Prakash C. Gupta Director, Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health and a co-author of the study.

The study emphasised that countries need to strengthen its policies for smokeless tobacco products too as it is equally harmful as smoking.

“We need to strengthen policies to restrict smokeless tobacco usage and prevent the rise of its use. It will otherwise defy the entire anti-tobacco movement and make it less effective in terms of reducing the tobacco attributable disease burden,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck cancer expert and anti-tobacco activist from Tata Memorial Centre.

According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2 report, in India, 199 million use smokeless tobacco, 100 million smoke tobacco and 32 million.

  • Among the area of concerns that GATS report highlighted was 68% of smokers, 17% of bidi smokers, and 50% of smokeless tobacco users purchase loose tobacco.
  • The study said in all the three countries, smoking prevalence declined (by 6% in Bangladesh, 3% in India and 7% in Nepal) but SLT use increased (by 3% in Bangladesh, 6% in India and 4% in Nepal) over the study period. SLT use increased irrespective of whether the total tobacco use increased or decreased.
  • The share of SLT as a percentage of total tobacco use increased from 15% to 19% among Bangladeshi men, from 46% to 61% in India and from 29% to 41% in Nepal.