Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he launched “tobacco free Gujarat” way back in 2011. Within three years, he became Prime Minister, but his state is lagging behind far away in achieving his desired target.
The latest available data suggest that as many as 51.4 per cent of men and seven per cent of women in the state use any form of tobacco – it can be smoking cigarettes, bidis, cigars pipes, or hookas, chewing pan masalas with or without tobacco, use of gutkha or pan masala with tobacco, or use of khaini or snuff.
What is worse, data show, while the percentage of those using tobacco has come down, Gujarat has faltered in the fight against tobacco vis-à-vis other states. However, compared to other states, the effort to free its population from tobacco addiction has clearly not been as effective.
Indeed, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data for 2015-16, released a year ago, suggest that 51 per cent of men and seven per cent of women in the age group 15-49 “use some form of tobacco”, which is the seventh highest among 21 major Indian states.
However, while a decade earlier, the percentage of men using tobacco was higher (60.2 per cent), NFHS data for 2005-06 show, Gujarat placed the nine highest among major Indian states.
Similarly, if in 2005-06, Gujarat had the ninth highest percentage of women using tobacco, the state has “improved” its position to seventh a decade later, despite the fact that fewer percentage of females “use” tobacco now. If in 2005-06, 8.4 women were addicted to tobacco in some form, in 2015-16 it is down to 7.6 per cent.
The six states where a higher proportion men are using tobacco than Gujarat (51.4 per cent), as of 2015-16, are: Assam 63.9 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 59.5 per cent, West Bengal 58.8 per cent, Odisha 55.9, Chhattisgarh 55.2, and Uttar Pradesh 53 per cent.