Smoking bans, tax could save 9 million Indians: Study

An Indian man smokes a cigarette in New Delhi in this May 31, 2013, file photo. Banning smoking in the workplace and levying a tobacco tax could prevent more than nine million deaths from cardiovascular disease in India over the next decade, accordin
An Indian man smokes a cigarette in New Delhi in this May 31, 2013, file photo. Banning smoking in the workplace and levying a tobacco tax could prevent more than nine million deaths from cardiovascular disease in India over the next decade, according to a United States study. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Banning smoking in the workplace and levying a tobacco tax could prevent more than nine million deaths from cardiovascular disease in India over the next decade, according to a United States (US) study.

In India, smoking is blamed for the deaths of one in five men, and one in three people report being exposed to smoking in the workplace. Deaths from cardiovascular disease linked to tobacco use there are projected to climb 12 per cent over the next decade.

As questions persist over how effective anti-smoking measures may be in low and middle income countries, a team of scientists based in the US, Britain and India made a mathematical model to compare suggested measures to reduce future heart attack and stroke deaths from 2013 to 2022.

They found that smoke-free laws and increased tobacco taxes were the single two most effective measures, according to the study in PLoS Medicine on Tuesday.

These two measures alone would reduce heart attack deaths by six million and stroke deaths by 3.7 million, for a total of 9.7 million, over the next decade, the paper said.

The study compared five different tobacco control measures: smoke-free legislation, tobacco taxation, provision of brief cessation advice by health care providers, mass media campaigns, and advertising bans.

India, along with 175 other countries, ratified the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004, which advises these measures.

Researchers at Stanford University said the findings, though subject to uncertainties because they assume the Indian population would react to recommended measures similarly to other populations, are an "important" model for other developing countries looking to stamp out preventable diseases.

Strokes and heart attacks are on the rise in low- and middle-income countries due in part to tobacco. In India, consumption takes several forms: smoking cigarettes, smoking small, hand-rolled cigarettes called bidis, chewing tobacco and second-hand smoke.