For years now HERD Foundation has worked on creating awareness of ill effects of tobacco. All medical camps we organize include multi level awareness campaigning against tobacco use. It is a blot on the good name of the city that that has highest number of cases of oral cancer. Aside from being disturbing it has us contemplating what additional measures need to be taken to curb the menace. As the largest city in Central India and second capital of Maharashtra, we are also the thirteenth largest urban conglomeration in India where people are dying of oral cancer!
Despite rightful indignation and repeated warnings countless people continue to being caught up with the habit of either smoking or chewing tobacco. Pan masala added with tobacco is largely the culprit in growing number of cases of mouth cancers. In fact diseases caused by tobacco occur in the tongue, larynx, hypopharynx, oropharynx and floor of mouth cancers and may extend to other parts of the body. Cancer is a condition where cells in a particular part of the body develop and reproduce uncontrollably. Cancerous cells invade and destroy neighboring healthy tissue including organs.
Clearly lives are being destroyed due to addiction to tobacco. With Nagpur topping the list for tobacco related cancer cases, it is appalling to make note that even young children are getting caught in the snare. It is commonly observed that those who chew on pan masala or tobacco cannot chew anything else later. Advanced cases of those afflicted with tobacco related diseases cannot even open their full mouths leave alone chew food. It is ghastly to watch young people move about helplessly with masks covering their mouths.
Cancer is common in people who have been hooked on tobacco for a decade or more. Despite surgeries, radiation and therapy patients are yet unable to chew on food leaving them utterly vulnerable. Private practitioners as well as dental colleges in Nagpur are seeing steady rise in number of such cases. This is in spite of all effort at raising awareness about dangers of tobacco consumption.
With 10 lakh tobacco related deaths in India every year, nearly 1 lakh of these occur in Maharashtra alone. The state ranks third in the country in early deaths caused by tobacco consumption. But Nagpur as a city tops! A study conducted by Indian Council of Medical research states 50% of cancers are in men and 20% in women and are directly attributed to tobacco use.
Three-fourths of all tobacco-related cancers are head and neck cancers which include cancers of oral cavity, tongue, esophagus, while about one-fourth are lung cancers. Most frightening fact is that every year about 4 lakh new cases are added in Central India alone. Nagpur is regarded as the oral cancer capital of not just India but world due to maximum patients reported here. Increasingly, children and youth are falling prey to tobacco addiction.
While experts suggest multi-pronged strategies for minimizing consumption, many are of the view that a comprehensive tobacco control programme that includes public awareness, treatment center for tobacco dependency, prohibition of manufacturing and sale of all tobacco-based products and maximum taxation must be levied. Stringent attention needs to be given to ensure activation of Amendments in Juvenile Justice Act (January 15, 2015).
According to this Act anyone giving a child any intoxicating liquor or any narcotic drug or tobacco products or psychotropic substance, except on the order of a duly qualified medical practitioner, is liable for seven years of imprisonment and fine of Rs 1 lakh. As per Section 107 of the Act it can be enforced by designated child welfare police officers in every police station not below the rank of assistant sub-inspector.