Leading Edge / Winter 2004
Smokers More Prone to TB

Researchers find that male smokers in India are four times more likely to contract TB


Smoking contributes to half of the male tuberculosis (TB) deaths in India, according to a study published recently in The Lancet.

An international team of researchers found that male smokers in India are about four times as likely to become ill with TB – an infectious disease of the lungs – as their non-smoking countrymen, and are also four times as likely to die from TB. 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. The risk of death from TB for a smoker, aged 25 to 69, is 12 per cent in rural India and eight per cent in urban India. For a non-smoker, that risk is just three per cent in India’s rural areas, and two per cent in its cities.

About a billion people worldwide carry live TB infection in their lungs, but if they do not smoke most will never become seriously ill from it, says co-author Dr. Prabhat Jha, the Canada Research Chair of Health and Development at U of T. “Smoking may well increase the number of people who develop clinical TB themselves and can then infect others, unless properly treated and cured.”

The study was led by Dr. Vendhan Gajalakshmi in Chennai, India.


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