Historically, India was introduced to tobacco by the Portuguese through barter trade in the sixteenth century and later became a cash crop in the late eighteenth century in the British Raj. Commercial manufacturing of cigarettes started in the early twentieth century with the incorporation of the Imperial Tobacco Company of India Limited in 1910. The production of bidi, the Indian version of cigarettes (tobacco wrapped in tendu leaves), started in the late nineteenth century. The commercial production of smokeless tobacco, although used for centuries in chewing form, peaked in the late twentieth century with the advent of gutkha in the 1990s. What was initially introduced in the royal courts soon found favour with the masses. Although some people, including physicians, suspected that it could be harmful, tobacco soon came to be widely used and cultivated in India. Today, nearly 275 million Indians use tobacco in some form (48 per cent male and more than 20 per cent female), and this number is increasing at an alarming rate, especially among vulnerable populations including women and youth. According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey Fact Sheet: 2009, 14.6 per cent of youth (13–15-year-olds) use tobacco in some form. Sixth grade students are two to four times more likely to consume tobacco than eighth grade students. The gender gap is narrowing, with more young girls starting to use tobacco. In India, more than 1 million deaths annually are attributed to smoking alone.
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