New Delhi: Tobacco kills more than 1 million people each year in India (home to the second greatest number of smokers in the world). Additionally, tens of millions use deadly smokeless or chewing tobacco products. In fact, approximately 130 million people of age 15 and older in India currently smoke and roughly half of all adults are exposed to second-hand smoke at home.
There are approximately 1.10 crore tobacco users and almost a third of them (35.6 crores) use tobacco in the form of smokeless tobacco products. Smokeless tobacco refers to tobacco products that are consumed without smoking usually through mouth and nose. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research almost 65 % of the world’s Smokeless Tobacco users in India, the need of the hour is to undertake a national mission to fight smokeless tobacco.
“As a medical practitioner and as a Member of Parliament, I am concerned about the usage of smokeless tobacco in India. Smokeless tobacco is a very harmful substance causing cancer and ban in all states should be taken seriously by the Health Ministry. Smokeless tobacco like gutka and other such tobacco products that are chewed have a severe effect on health, more than smoking cigarettes. Youths are getting addicted and you get cancer cases at a very early age. In my state of Gujarat, the consumption of chewing tobacco is very high and oral cancer prevalence is also very high. As a doctor I must say that chewing tobacco should be banned in all states of India” says Dr.Kirit Bhai Solanki, BJP Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha.
India is unique in high consumption of smokeless tobacco or chewing tobacco which are among the most lethal, according to a study by ICMR – National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR). Though Carcinogenicity of smokeless or chewable tobacco products varies, these all lead to oral or other types of cancer directly. Smokeless tobacco products (STP) such as gutka, khaini, pan masala are deadly addiction and cause severe damage to the users within a short time. STP is cheap and easily available and due to promotional laudatory messages, the consumers have the perception that they consume the more or less harmless product.
The prevalence of certain smokeless tobacco products in some of the states is very high. For example, in Jharkhand (44.3%), Bihar (37.3%), Assam (37.3%) and Arunachal Pradesh (34.0%), more than one-third of the men use khaini. In Tripura (26.4% of men and 53.0% of women) and Manipur (37.5% of men and 39.8% of women), betel quid with tobacco is widely used. In Mizoram (32.6%) and Chhattisgarh (19.1%), tobacco for oral application is widely used by women. Gutka is common chewing tobacco in all states despite its ban.
World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that two fifths of all stroke deaths under the age of 65 years are linked to smoking. However, the use of smokeless tobacco also increases the risk of stroke and blood pressure besides its direct link to oral cancer.
Dr Kirit Bhai Solanki also added “Besides this, a national ban on new types of tobacco introduction like E-Cigarettes ( ENDS ) is also required banned as it is an addictive substance. Gujarat has recently banned it and all other states should follow.”
ENDS or e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices used to smoke or ‘vape’, a flavored solution containing a varying concentration of nicotine, an addictive chemical found in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco products. These devices also contain other ingredients as flavoring agents and vaporizers, which are also found to be harmful to health. The most common type of such device is e-cigarettes that produce an aerosolized mixture of the flavored liquids and nicotine, which is inhaled by the user. Studies have found that youths using ENDS or e-cigarettes are more likely to use regular cigarettes later.