Northeast shifting from Cigarettes to Bidi?

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By Gaurav Das

Guwahati, November 30: Recent trends suggest smokers and nicotine addicts in Northeast are moving over to the humble Bidi from Cigarettes. This change in habit is the result of high taxes which has led to a remarkable rise in Cigarette prices thus making them unaffordable for a huge section of the society.

“An increase in tax and price on tobacco products has led to the variations. It has been observed that there has been a shift in addiction from Cigarette to Bidi,” said an official from the state nodal office of National Tobacco Control Programme.

While some are quitting smoking altogether, a few are opting for the inexpensive Bidi. This switch will eventually lead to major health problems, sooner than cigarettes as Bidis do not have filters in them.

“Bidi is more harmful than cigarettes as to keep it lit people or smokers need inhale in stronger puffs. The smoke goes deep into the lungs this way. Secondly cigarettes have filters which bidis don’t not have,” said Ashok Das, oncologist at Dr B Borooah Cancer Institute.

Meanwhile, the recently released Global Audit Tobacco Survey (GATS 2) says there has been a slight or medium increase in average monthly expenditure on cigarettes and bidi by daily consumers of such products in Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura as compared to what was recorded by GATS-1 seven years ago.

The economics of tobacco consumption in the northeast region has brought to light shift in tobacco addiction pattern in users and their monthly expenditure on cigarettes and bidi according to the recently released Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2016-17).

In Tripura, an average cigarette smoker now spends Rs 803.3 per month on cigarettes alone as compared to Rs 795.6 during 2009-10. Monthly expenses incurred on bidi by a user also shot to Rs 316.6 in 2016-17 from a meagre Rs 128.9 back then.

In Sikkim, the state GATS-2 recorded a significant decrease in tobacco usage in tobacco usage such as smoking and non smoking forms too recorded an increase of Rs 1349.0 in monthly expense on cigarettes in the latest survey from Rs 1031.0 during the last one.

Bidi expenditure per month too increased from Rs 104.9 to Rs 508.3 in the Himalayan state.

“Firstly the variation increase per month on both cigarettes and bidi is solely depended on consumption of such products. Secondly there has been a significant increase in price rise of tobacco products inclusive of both cigarettes and bidi. During both the surveys we had asked the users how much they consumed and how much they spent,” said Sulabha Parasuraman, consultant GATS 2 and academic at Tata Institute of Social Science.

In Nagaland, there was a significant increase in monthly expenditure on cigarettes from Rs 689.6 during 2009-10 to Rs 1473.9 in 2016-17. Monthly expenditure on bidi increased from Rs 116.3 to Rs 265.5.

In Assam, GATS 2 recorded that there was a wide jump in monthly expense on bidi from Rs 149.8 seven years ago to a whopping Rs 786.6.

But there was a decrease in the monthly expense on cigarettes from Rs 829.2 to Rs 799.4. The similar pattern was observed in Arunachal Pradesh.

Mizoram saw a decrease in monthly expense on cigarettes but an increase on bidi. Both Meghalaya and Manipur saw monthly decrease on both cigarettes and bidi from 2009-10 to 2016-17.

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