Cancer centres seek ban on smokeless tobacco

CHENNAI: The Cancer Institute (Women India Association) Chennai has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ban all tobacco-related products from being manufactured or sold in the country.

E Vidhubala, assistant professor and principal investigator, department of psycho-oncology and Tobacco Cessation Centre, Cancer Institute (WIA), Adyar told City Express that the regional directors of the cancer centres had written letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ban the tobacco products, besides raising serious concern over growing Gutka/Pan Masala menace in India. “In the letter, TG Sagar, director, Cancer Institute (WIA), hoped that the government would ban Gutkha and other tobacco products completely instead of being a silent spectator,” she said.

smokeless tobacco

smokeless tobacco

Interestingly, the country had the highest number of oral cancer cases in the world with 75,000 to 80,000 new cases of oral cancer being reported every year. Chewing tobacco and gutkha contributed to 90 per cent of oral cancer cases in the country, which has the dubious distinction of having the largest number of oral cancer cases in the world sparking off an alarm among the 17 regional cancer centres.

“Easy availability of this mixture of toxic substance, which contains areca nut (supari), slaked lime and certain food additives, in small, affordable pouches in every corner of the country has become a serious health hazard,” said Vidhubala.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2010) released in October 2010, nearly one-third of Indian population, including children and youth, were addicted to smokeless tobacco. Depending upon the geographical areas, different names with different combinations of smokeless tobacco were marketed, such as Mawa, Khaini, Gudakhu, panni etc.

Vidhubala said there were 3,095 chemical components in tobacco and among them 28 were proven carcinogens. The major and most abundant group of carcinogens was the Tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines (TSNA) and N-nitrosoamino acids. The nitrosamine level was directly related to the risk of cancer.

Scientific evidence had established that tobacco chewing caused cancer of the mouth, oesophagus (food pipe), larynx and pharynx (throat), pancreas, stomach, kidney and lung. It can also caused high BP and other life threatening cardiovascular conditions like myocardial ischemia and stroke. The use of smokeless tobacco during pregnancy could cause still-birth, low birth weight, premature delivery, anaemia (to the mother) and several complications during delivery, says Vidhubala.


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