Anti-tobacco laws, taxes can yield substantial health benefits – study

The determination to shun the butt will surely bring about substantial health benefits. But improved anti-tobacco laws and raised taxes on cigarettes and bidis can too yield health benefits indirectly, researchers have found.

According to the findings of a new research, levying higher taxes on tobacco products and reinstating better anti-tobacco laws can help prevent over nine million deaths from cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and heart attacks, in India over the next decade.

In India, one in five men die of smoking and one in three people become victims of passive smoking. An estimated 12 percent increase in the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease linked to tobacco use is projected over the next decade.

To check if effective anti-smoking measures may help cut the risk, a team of researchers from United States, Britain and India developed a mathematical model. The model estimated the effects of different tobacco control measures and suggested measures to reduce future heart attack and stroke deaths over the next decade.

Five different control measures specified in the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) were taken up under the model. These included, smoke-free legislation, tobacco taxation, provision of brief cessation advice by health care providers, mass media campaigns, and advertising bans.

In addition to tobacco control measures the model also looked at other factors such as increased availability of aspirin, blood pressure drugs, and cholesterol lowering statins used for cutting cardiovascular disease risk.

Analysis revealed that smoke-free legislation and tobacco taxation laws were the most effective strategies for reducing future heart attack and stroke risk over the next decade.
The two measures alone can help prevent about 9 million deaths from cardiovascular disease in India by 2022, researchers concluded.

Interestingly, a combination of stringent anti-tobacco laws and drug interventions policies (providing easy access to aspirin and medication to control blood pressure and cholesterol) can prevent a third of all predicted deaths from heart attack and stroke over the next decade.

“Our findings indicate that full implementation of key FCTC articles in India would yield substantial reductions in mortality from myocardial infarctions and stroke, despite projected increases in other risk factors for CVD such as hypertension and diabetes,” observed Dr. Sanjay Basu, study’s lead investigator and researcher at the Stanford University in the U.S.

The findings of the study were reported in Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine.

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