What is the cost of a human life? Pretty priceless, one would imagine. But this is a price we pay over a million times every year in India due to tobacco. The real tragedy is that we refuse to learn or strive to improve. Our systems and policies treat human life as an expendable resource.
According to the GATS 2 data, there are about 267 million tobacco users in India. Our quit rate is poor at about 1.15 million each year and in the last seven years, only 8.1 million people have quit tobacco for good. The death rate from tobacco use meanwhile is around 1.35 million per year. For every person who dies because of tobacco, more than 30 live with serious tobacco-related illnesses.
These numbers clearly tell us that current strategies for tobacco control aren’t nearly as effective as we like to pretend. While we trudge along helping a few to quit, the larger majority continues to use tobacco and suffer grave consequences. The abysmal quit rates (less than 0.5 per cent of Indian tobacco users per year) should have prompted a re-think of our methods long ago, but evidently our government and the WHO are okay with these numbers as long as they can claim a 17 per cent relative reduction compared to the GATS 1 figures.