Dr. Avnish Jolly, Mumbai, 12th March, 2009 :Thousands of street children in Mumbai spend more on tobacco than on food every day, according to a survey of their economic conditions and tobacco consumption conducted by Shelter Don Bosco—a Mumbai-based NGO working with street children—is part of a report ‘Tobacco and Poverty: Observations from India and Bangladesh’.
The results of the survey distributed on the third day of the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Mumbai reveals that street children in the city spend more each month on naswar (snuff), mava, gutka (both forms of chewing tobacco) and cigarettes than on meat. It further stated that these children in Mumbai spent almost equal amount every month on khaini (powdered tobacco) as they spend on milk, and more for all forms of tobacco except masheri (tobacco paste) than on fruit or eggs.
According to the survey, daily expenditure on tobacco was highest for gutka—at over Rs 6 per day. The amount also represented a large portion—about 21 per cent—of the Rs 29, which was the average daily earning of these children. In a shocking revelation, the survey found that 46.8 per cent of the child respondents use gutka and 39.5 per cent smoke beedis. Cigarettes, which are far more expensive than gutka and beedis, were consumed by 28 per cent of the children.
The reports said that tobacco use is an integral part of life for street children in Mumbai. They start by picking up discarded butts from cigarettes and beedis, and then quickly move on to purchasing tobacco and spending significant sums of their meagre incomes on it. The children also report an array of health effects from tobacco use and some children earning less than Rs 20 a day spent as much as Rs 8.60 daily on beedis, an astounding 43 per cent of their earnings, while children earning less than Rs 60 per day spent Rs 8 per day buying mava, representing 13 per cent of their income.
The survey highlited that quantities of tobacco products consumed increased consistently until the daily income level reached Rs 200, after which they declined. Similarly the quantity of tobacco consumed, particularly in terms of plain tobacco, cigarettes and gutka, increased substantially with the age of the child. In comparison, the amount spent on food to those spent on tobacco was also found to be nearly equal with these children spending an average Rs 6.10 on gutka as well as that for their morning meal.
The revealed that more than one third of the children do not eat eggs, and over one fourth children go without any fruit. "A very high proportion of 66 per cent children do not drink milk either," the report stated and also reported that these children from Mumbai suffer from a variety of health problems like coughs, weakness, mouth sores and breathing problems from using tobacco.