Tobacco: The Silent Killer

Tobacco consumption: Higher Prices Could Be The Effective way


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Tobacco consumption, Health and socio economic impact


Central Idea

  • The share of smokers is declining in India, but smokeless tobacco consumption continues unabated. Smokeless tobacco use is widespread and is a significant public health challenge. The use of smokeless tobacco in India is deeply ingrained in cultural and traditional practices, making it difficult to address through public health interventions.

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DATA: Tobacco consumption in India

  • High Consumption in north eastern states: In the north-eastern States of India, consumption of tobacco among men in both smokable and chewable forms was higher than the rest of India in 2019-21.
  • Consumption in southern states is relatively low: In the southern States, the share was relatively low with regard to both forms of tobacco consumption. However, among those who smoked, the share of those who consumed more than five sticks a day was much higher in many southern States. So, while smokers were fewer in the south, those who smoked did so heavily.
  • Smokable forms: If only the smokable forms were considered, the share was higher in the northern States of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, J&K U.T. and the eastern State of West Bengal.
  • Chewable forms: If only the chewable forms were considered, the share was higher in the east Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha and in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
  • Share of cigarette/bidi smokers is coming down: Overall, in India, the share of cigarette/bidi smokers is coming down. Compared to 2005-06, the share of smokers came down by over 10% points in 2019-21.

Why is this trend?

  • Increase in prices of smokable forms: According to health economists the reduction in cigarette smoking may be attributed to the increase in the prices of the commodity over time.
  • Price of chewable form have not increased: On the other hand, the prices of bidis and other chewable forms have not increased much, and so consumption too has not reduced much.


Why price and taxation of tobacco matters?

  • Effective way to reduce consumption: Research from many countries around the world including India shows that a price increase induces people to quit or reduce tobacco use as well as discourages non-users from getting into the habit of tobacco use.
  • For example: a study conducted in India found that a 10% increase in the price of tobacco products led to a 6.4% reduction in tobacco consumption among adults.
  • Higher prices can also discourage young people from taking up smoking: According to the World Health Organization, increasing tobacco prices by 10% can reduce tobacco use among young people by about 4%. This is particularly important as most tobacco users start smoking during adolescence.

Tobacco consumption: Negative health effects

  • Cancer: Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable cancer. It can cause cancer of the lungs, mouth, throat, larynx, pancreas, bladder, kidney, and cervix.
  • Respiratory diseases: It may cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It can also worsen asthma symptoms.
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Consumption increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. It damages blood vessels and increases the risk of blood clots.
  • Reproductive health: Tobacco use can lead to infertility, premature birth, and low birth weight in babies.

Tobacco consumption: Social-Economic Impact

  1. On an individual level:
  • Tobacco consumption can lead to decreased productivity and increased healthcare costs.
  • Smoking-related illnesses can result in absenteeism from work, decreased work performance, and increased medical expenses.
  • In addition, tobacco consumption can lead to decreased life expectancy, which reduces the overall productive years of an individual.
  1. On a societal level:
  • Tobacco consumption can lead to decreased economic development due to the increased burden of healthcare costs and decreased productivity.
  • According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco-related illnesses cost India about $22.4 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity annually



  • Tobacco consumption in India has significant socioeconomic and health impacts, particularly on the poor and marginalized sections of the population. Worryingly, after GST implementation, cigarette prices have not increased much. Increasing the price of tobacco products through taxation is a key strategy for reducing tobacco consumption and its associated health and economic costs.

Mains Question

Q. Tobacco consumption in India has significant socioeconomic and health impacts? Discuss. Do you think increase in price of tobacco commodities reduces its consumption?

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