Back to browse results
The progression of the tobacco epidemic in India on the national and regional level, 1998-2016
Authors: Rufi Shaikh, Fanny Janssen, and Tobias Vogt
Source: BMC Public Health, Volume 22, Article 317; DOI:
Topic(s): Gender
Spatial analysis
Tobacco use
Country: Asia
Published: FEB 2022
Abstract: Background Evidence regarding the progression of the tobacco epidemic remains fragmented in low- and middle-income countries. In India, most of the studies that examined tobacco consumption focused on one time point, on the country as a whole, and on men. Despite important gender differences in tobacco consumption, vast economic and cultural differences exist within India. We, therefore, assessed the progression of the tobacco epidemic in India on both the national and the regional level, by gender. Methods We use information on current tobacco use among Indians aged 15–49 from three rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) (1998-99, 2005-06, 2015-16) to estimate the age-standardized sex specific smoking and smokeless tobacco prevalence across India and its states. Results Age-standardized tobacco use prevalence in India increased between 1998-1999 and 2005-2006, and declined from 2005-2006 to 2015–2016, simultaneously for men and women. There are substantial spatial differences in the progression of the tobacco epidemic in India. While tobacco use declined in the majority of states, we observe high and increasing use for men in the north-eastern states of Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, and for women in the western state of Gujarat and north-eastern state of Manipur. We observed even more states with a recent increasing prevalence in either tobacco smoking or smokeless tobacco. Throughout, prevalence of tobacco use has been higher among men than women for all Indian regions, and remained higher than the national average in the north-eastern states. Conclusions Our results suggest that India and the majority of its states experienced a ‘compressed tobacco epidemic’ in which the prevalence of tobacco consumption increased and decreased simultaneously for women and men over a comparatively short period of time. Despite the overall progress India made in reducing tobacco use, further lowering tobacco consumption remains a public health priority, as the prevalence of smoking and/or smokeless tobacco use remains high in a number of states. We therefore conclude that tobacco regulations should be expanded with the aim of reducing the overall health burden associated with tobacco consumption across India.