Srinagar: The state consumes 190 million cigarettes a month and is fast earning the dubious distinction of becoming the smoking capital of the sub-continent.
The smokers splurge a whopping Rs 1000 crore annually on purchasing cigarettes and tobacco in the state.
Member Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies Shakeel Qalandar said Jammu and Kashmir imports 260 million cigarette sticks monthly apart from the crude tobacco products.
“Out of this, 190 million cigarette sticks are consumed by the Kashmir region while Jammu smokes 70 million cigarette sticks,” Qalandar, former president of Federation Chamber of Industry Kashmir told Kashmir reader.
He said the smokers spend a total of Rs 1000 crore annually on smoking tobacco.
“There are two major companies Godfrey Philips and Indian Tobacco Company (ITC) exporting cigarettes to Jammu and Kashmir. The former has an annual turnover of around 450 crore while the later has 350 crore in the state,” Qalandar said.
“The rest 300 crore is generated from crude tobacco products like Tambaku, Bidi, and Naas etc”.
Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) has tallied that around 26.6% population of Jammu and Kashmir is using tobacco products, in one form or the other.
It points out that Kashmir has 12% cigarette smokers, 3.8% bidi smokers and 8.0% smokeless tobacco users.
Further it informs the cigarette use in the state is 12% while in India it stands at 5.7%.
Head of Department Community Medicines SKIMS, Dr Abdul Majeed said that no community based study has yet been carried out to establish the number of smokers in Kashmir.
“In 2012 we did a study in colleges regarding students addicted to smoking. We found 5.9 percent female students and 30 males who were addicted,” Majeed said.
Majeed said there was need for a proper study to find the true indicators of smokers and the related health problems it causes.
Listing the health problems created by smoking, he said the smoking causes cancer formation in the body.
“It has been found that 30 percent patients with respiratory problems are directly or indirectly affected by smoking,” he said adding, “It has been found smoking causes allergy, bronchitis, high blood pressure and brain hemorrhage”.
According to GATS 8 lakh people will die untimely death due to serious illnesses, heart attacks, pulmonary diseases and cancer.
According to the survey, fifteen lakh people are likely to protract Cancer because of tobacco in the State and currently J&K State has been labelled as the lung cancer capital of India.
Psychiatrist Dr Arshad Hussain said the tobacco was the commonest drug abuse prevailing in the state.
“Tobaaco has all features of drugs. It increases dependence, it causes cravings, users find a momentarily escape, you can’t stop using it, you temporarily feel well,” Hussain said.
He said the prime reason for increased use of tobacco in Kashmir is its social acceptance.
He said the tobacco use by the people in Kashmir is done to allay stress and traumatic times unlike west where alcohol is used for the same purpose.