Tuberculosis Deaths From Smoking
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Every year thousands of people worldwide smoke their way to graves. Smoking not only damages the lungs but also makes the smokers prone to a host of diseases. In India, smoking causes half the tuberculosis deaths in men. Three quarters of the Indian smokers who become infected with tuberculosis could have averted the illness had they not smoked. These findings have appeared in a recent issue of the journal The Lancet.
The study revealed that Indian smokers are about four times as likely to suffer from tuberculosis as non-smokers. As a consequence, the smokers are four times as likely to die from the disease. “Every year almost 200,000 smokers die from tuberculosis in India,” said Dr. Vendhan Gajalakshmi of the Epidemiological Research Centre in Chennai, India who led the study. “Half the smokers killed by TB are still only in their thirties, forties or early fifties.” In this study, Dr. Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto and Dr. Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics at the University of Oxford, UK have supported Gajalakshmi.
According to the study, about a quarter of the smokers killed were aged between 25 and 69. They lost, on average, 20 years of life. This is the first major study that showed that smoking strengthens the tuberculosis infection. As few women in South India smoke, the study only focused on men. The study compared the smoking habits of 43,000 men who had died of various diseases in the late 1990s with the habits of 35,000 living men. Of all the men died, 4000 died from TB.
Right now, about half a billion people worldwide are carrying live TB infection in their lungs. If they smoke, they will become seriously ill from TB. Smoking aggravates the TB infection already in the lungs and symptoms of TB manifest. It is deadly and infect other people. “In some parts of the world the main way smoking kills people is by damaging the lungs’ defences against chronic TB infection,” said Peto. “Our study indicates that in rural India 12 per cent of smokers and 3 per cent of non-smokers die prematurely from TB.” In urban India, 8 per cent of smokers and 2 per cent of non-smokers die from TB.
Tuberculosis still claims about 1.6 million lives a year worldwide, including more than a million in Asia, 400,000 in Africa and 100,000 in the Americas and Europe, and in some countries it is now becoming more common. “Not only in Asia and Africa, but also throughout America and Europe, smoking will increase the number of people who develop symptoms of TB and can infect others, unless properly treated and cured,” said Jha.
Besides TB, the smokers die from heart disease and various types of cancer. Among men in India, smoking causes a quarter of all deaths from any cause in middle age. In India, one in four of all chain-smokers die due to tobacco addiction. The risk is substantial both for cigarettes and ‘bidis’, a small Asian cigarettes used widely in India.
In India, smoking took 700,000 lives in the year 2000. The men died were mostly aged between 35 and 69. Each year the number of tobacco related deaths are increasing at an alarming rate. By 2025, it is projected that annual tobacco deaths among middle-aged Indian men will reach 1 million.
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