Giving Compass' Take:

• In this story from IDR, Dr. Abhay Bang discusses the negatives effects of alcohol and tobacco, in terms of both poverty and public health.

• What resources can philanthropy provide to public health professionals to combat addiction?

Click here to learn about a legal battle in the U.S. over how jails treat victims of addiction.

The district of Gadchiroli has 1.2 million people, spread across 1,500 villages and three towns. A district sample survey we carried out in the years 2015 and 2016 showed that 41 percent of men had consumed alcohol in the past 12 months, spending a total of INR 80 crore. In the case of tobacco, 44 percent of people from across the district—men, women, and children—had spent annually a total of INR 298 crore of their own money on their addiction.

The annual district plan of the government in the same year was INR 157 crore, less than half of what poor people were spending, out of their own pockets, on tobacco and alcohol. This brought to light an interesting yet sad insight: tobacco and alcohol not only harm health, but they cause poverty.

There are primarily three causes behind succumbing to addiction. There can be a genetic tendency. Familial influence by way of normalisation of drinking can also play a role. And, in societies where a larger number of people take their first drink, we see a larger number of alcoholics. In fact, one of the most important factors that determines the magnitude of the problem in any society is how many people take the first sip.

This is why we always listen to the people first. Scientific evidence keeps changing, but people’s life experiences—often, though not always—reveal the truth. According to the 2017 GBD, alcohol and tobacco are two of the top 10 causes of death, disease, and disability. Fifty years ago these substances were considered harmless, and were consumed for pleasure, but in terms of their health consequences, they are the cholera and plague of our times.

Read the full article about alcohol and tobacco by Ayesha Marfatia at India Development Review (IDR).