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Smoking likely to cause nearly a million deaths by 2010

Study by St. Michael's Hospital researcher Dr. Prabhat Jha predicts one million people a year will die from tobacco smoking in India during the 2010s.

Toronto, February 15, 2008

One in five of all male deaths and one in 20 of all female deaths between the ages of 30 and 69 in India will be caused by smoking during the 2010s, says a study led by St. Michael's Hospital researcher Dr. Prabhat Jha.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and conducted by a team of doctors and scientists from India, Canada and Britain, predicts one million people will die from tobacco smoking in India during the 2010s. About 70 per cent of these deaths will be before old age, meaning 700,000 people between ages 30-69 will be killed per year.

In India, there are about 120 million smokers. More than one-third of men and about five per cent of women aged 30-69 smoke either cigarettes or bidis - small hand-rolled cigarettes common in India. The study, the first nationally representative study of smoking in India as a whole, says on average male bidi mokers lose about six years of life, female bidi smokers lose about eight years and male cigarette smokers lose about ten years.

Other key findings include:

  • Tobacco is responsible for one in five of all male deaths and one in 20 of all female deaths in middle age.
  • Smoking kills mainly by tuberculosis, respiratory and heart disease, but also by cancer.
  • Even smoking only a few (one to seven) bidis a day raised mortality risks by one-third, and smoking only a few (one to seven) cigarettes a day nearly doubled the risk.
  • Most of the gap between male and female mortality rates in middle age is due to smoking.
  • Substantial hazards were found both among educated and among illiterate adults and were found both in urban and in rural areas.
  • Stopping smoking works - but, only two percent of adults have quit in India, and often only after falling ill.

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