Tob Control 10:212-217 doi:10.1136/tc.10.3.212
  • Original article

Hungry for tobacco: an analysis of the economic impact of tobacco consumption on the poor in Bangladesh

  1. Debra Efroymsona,
  2. Saifuddin Ahmedb,
  3. Joy Townsendc,
  4. Syed Mahbubul Alamb,
  5. Amit Ranjan Deyb,
  6. Ranjit Sahab,
  7. Biplob Dharb,
  8. Aminul Islam Sujonb,
  9. Kayum Uddin Ahmedb,
  10. Oliur Rahmanb
  1. aPATH Canada, Dhaka, Bangladesh, bWork for a Better Bangladesh, cLondon School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Debra Efroymson, PATH Canada, 67 Laboratory Road, Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205, BangladeshpathCan{at}
  • Received 16 October 2000
  • Revised 18 April 2001
  • Accepted 3 May 2001


OBJECTIVE To investigate the extent of tobacco expenditures in Bangladesh and to compare those costs with potential investment in food and other essential items.

DESIGN Review of available statistics and calculations based thereon.

RESULTS Expenditure on tobacco, particularly cigarettes, represents a major burden for impoverished Bangladeshis. The poorest (household income of less than $24/month) are twice as likely to smoke as the wealthiest (household income of more than $118/month). Average male cigarette smokers spend more than twice as much on cigarettes as per capita expenditure on clothing, housing, health and education combined. The typical poor smoker could easily add over 500 calories to the diet of one or two children with his or her daily tobacco expenditure. An estimated 10.5 million people currently malnourished could have an adequate diet if money on tobacco were spent on food instead. The lives of 350 children could be saved each day.

CONCLUSION Tobacco expenditures exacerbate the effects of poverty and cause significant deterioration in living standards among the poor. This aspect of tobacco use has been largely neglected by those working in poverty and tobacco control. Strong tobacco control measures could have immediate impact on the health of the poor by decreasing tobacco expenditures and thus significantly increasing the resources of the poor. Addressing the issue of tobacco and poverty together could make tobacco control a higher priority for poor countries.


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