Smokers in India start later in life and smoke fewer cigarettes or 'bidis' than those in Europe or America, but the risks are as extreme as in the West, according to findings in The New England Journal of Medicine quoted by media reports Thursday.
One in five of all male deaths and one in 20 of all female deaths between the ages of 30 and 69 will be caused by smoking, said the study, conducted by a team of doctors and scientists from India, Canada and Britain.
The study sent 900 field workers to survey 1.1 million homes across the country. It compared the smoking history of 74,000 adults who died from 2001 to 2003 with 78,000 living adults.
The study says there are currently about 120 million smokers in India. More than 30 percent of men and 5 percent of women between 30 and 69 years of age smoke either cigarettes or "bidis" -- small, cheaply made cigarettes which contain about one-fourth the tobacco of a regular cigarette.
Bidis are popular among poor Indians because they are significantly cheaper. A packet of 10 costs about 2 rupees (about 5 U.S. cents; euro 0.03) while the cheapest cigarettes cost 1 rupee (2 U.S. cents; euro 0.01) apiece.
The study found more than 50 percent of smoking deaths are likely to be among the poor, illiterate Indians.
(Agencies via Xinhua News Agency February 14, 2008)