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Bidi smoking costs India over Rs 80,000 crore in ill health, says study

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According to a study, ‘Bidi’ smoking costs India over Rs 80,000 crore in ill health and early deaths every year which is equivalent to 0.5 per cent of the goods and services (GDP). “The tax revenue derived from bidi smoking came to just Rs 4.17 billion in 2016-17,” the study said.

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The findings published in the journal ‘Tobacco Control’ showed that direct costs – tests, drugs, doctors’ fees, hospital stays, and transport – make up around a fifth of this total with the remainder made up of indirect costs – accommodation for relatives/carers and loss of household income.

Notably, the findings are based on National Sample Survey data on healthcare expenditures, data on bidi smoking prevalence from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey and relative risks of all-cause mortality from bidi smoking, were for the year 2017.

Study author Rijo M John from Centre for Public Policy Research in Kerala’s Kochi, said that nearly one in five households in India faces “catastrophic expenditures” due to healthcare costs, with more than 63 million people pushed into poverty.

“Diseases associated with bidi smoking add to this, potentially pushing more people into poverty,” Rijo M John said, suggesting that about 15 million face poverty because of spending on tobacco and associated health costs.

John further said, “Expenditure on tobacco also crowds out expenditure on food and education in India, especially among the poor.” But despite its impact on the nation’s health, it has been taxed at a rate that is a fraction of that applied to cigarettes, he added. But despite its impact on the nation’s health, it has been taxed at a rate that is a fraction of that applied to cigarettes, he concluded.

However, the findings also suggest that unhindered use of bidi smoking could push more households into poverty.

Bidi is very popular in India, accounting for over 80 per cent of the tobacco smoked and 72 million regular users over the age of 15.  Although bidi contains less tobacco than conventional cigarettes, the nicotine content is significantly higher.

The relatively low burn point forces smokers to breathe in more of the harmful chemicals produced. Bidi smoking is implicated in several types of cancer, tuberculosis, and various long-term lung conditions.

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