Of the 275 millions Indians who consume tobacco, nearly 138 million do not know that smoking causes stroke.
As many as 92 million aren't aware that tobacco causes heart disease. According to a report released by the World Heart Federation (WHF) on Friday, half of all Chinese smokers and one-third of Indian smokers are unaware of the risks tobacco pose to our heart. Awareness of the risk of secondhand smoke is even lower.
According to WHF, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world's leading cause of death, killing 17.3 million people every year. Around 80% of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries like India, which are increasingly being targeted by the tobacco industry.
Tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure causes about 1/10th of global deaths from CVD.
Secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of heart disease by 25% and more than 87% of worldwide adult deaths caused by secondhand smoke are due to CVD.
The report - Cardiovascular Harms from Tobacco Use and Secondhand Smoke - was commissioned by the WHF and written by the International Tobacco Control Project (ITC Project) in collaboration with the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization (WHO).
Prof K Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India and chairman of Science and Policy Initiatives Committee, WHF, said, "Indians need to wake up to the threat of CVDs which are having a devastating impact on the nation's health, growth and development. Joint government and public action on tackling these diseases is the need of the hour. Our policies and programmes must focus on clearly informing the masses about the ill-effects of tobacco use and effective measures like pictorial health warnings on tobacco products must depict heart disease and stroke as real dangers of tobacco use."
Professor Geoffrey T Fong, chief principal investigator of the ITC Project, said, "This report shows a broad correlation between poor knowledge of the risks of tobacco use and high levels of smoking prevalence. To break this link and reduce the deadly toll of tobacco, more needs to be done to increase awareness of the specific health harms."
He added, "Our research shows that the risks of tobacco use to lung health are very widely accepted. But we need to attain the same level of knowledge and awareness that tobacco use can cause heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease and secondhand smoke can cause heart attack."
Johanna Ralston, CEO of WHF, said, "If people don't know about the cardiovascular effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure, they cannot understand how much or how quickly smokers are endangering not only their own lives, but those of family members, friends, co-workers or other non-smokers who breathe tobacco smoke. In countries like India or China, so many people are at high risk for heart attack or stroke, and it strikes at a relatively early age: risks of CVD are far more present and immediate than most of the better-known fatal effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure."
A recent WHO report had said that almost two in five deaths among adults, who are 30 years and above in India are caused due to smokeless tobacco.
According to WHO's Mortality Attributable to Tobacco Report, globally 12% of all deaths among adults aged 30 years and above were due to smokeless tobacco in 2004 compared with 16% in India, Pakistan (17%) and Bangladesh (31%). Direct tobacco smoking was responsible for 5 million deaths. Another 6 lakh people died from secondhand smoke. Over the next 20 years, the annual death toll from tobacco will be 8 million, with more than 80% of those deaths projected to occur in low and middle-income countries.
WHO says tobacco could, in the 21st century, kill over 1 billion people. Many think smokeless tobacco is safer than the smoking form. However that's not really true.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco India Survey (GATS), 21% of the country's population is addicted to smokeless tobacco alone and another 5% percent smoke as well as use smokeless tobacco. Among smokeless tobacco products, khaini is used the most, followed by gutkha. Around 91% of female tobacco users use smokeless products like betel quid with tobacco is used the most, followed by gutkha and khaini.
GATS says India spends approximately Rs 300 billion annually in both public and private spending on treatment of tobacco-related illness, accounting for about one-fourth of all health spending.