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Ban on tobacco, gutka showing a dip in oral cancer cases in India: Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi

Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Friday, April 14, 2017, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Centre for Disease Control’s National Tobacco Survey have indicated a dip in tobacco consumption in India among males. These are attributed mainly to the ban on tobacco and gutka use in public places.

“While it will be difficult to share the required figures at the moment, it is heart warming to see that gutka is disappearing and difficult to access by the youth and children as compared to the scene a few years ago. The same is the case of cigarettes. Our purpose is served if it is not easily available,”  said Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck cancer surgeon, Tata Memorial Hospital.

Delving on the morbidity of oral cancer reporting one lakh new patients annually in the country with 50 per cent of these patients succumbing to the deadly disease within a year, Dr. Chaturvedi who was in Bengaluru to unveil the India Chapter of International Academy of Oral Oncology (IAOO),  said. The main reason for such high fatality was  delayed access to doctors and lack of awareness on the fact that mouth cancers could be cured if diagnosed early.

Oral cancer is one of the most commonest among the Indian males who resort to smoking and tobacco chewing. The only way to stall the new cancer cases was to put an embargo on tobacco sales. This cancer is preventable, easily detectable and treatable, Dr. Chaturvedi pointed out.

However, there is an increase in lung cancer cases among women in the urban areas. This is due to both passive and proactive smoking in this gender. In the rural areas too, chewing tobacco is difficult to control, noted Dr. Chaturvedi who is also the secretary of 6th World Oral Cancer Congress to be held in Bengaluru from May 17 to 20, 2017 in Bengaluru.

Being the face behind the tobacco control in India, it was Dr. Chaturvedi who enforced a guthka ban in Maharashtra and insisted the Union government to print images of cancer patients on cigarette packets. In addition he managed to project a two minute advisory on the bane of tobacco consumption in all movie theatres before the film and during intervals. The intent was to create and sustain an awareness on the ill-effects of tobacco.

In addition, he was also the co-ordinator of the Smoke free Mumbai campaign, chairman, Media and Advertising, World Congress on tobacco. As the joint secretary of the action council against tobacco in India and as the Editor of the India’s first anti-tobacco magazine: Tobacco Kills, he also created the world’s only exclusive anti-tobacco cartoon websites with the help of UICC.

India enforced smoking is prohibition in public places from October 2, 2008. “There are studies indicating that the most effective way to curb the effects of tobacco is to ban its consumption in public places. Another concern is supari which is the second reason for mouth cancer,” said Dr. Chaturvedi.

According to the recent report by the British Medical Journal, higher tax on tobacco by at least one-third could save around 40 per cent of lives in South Asia including India.

 

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