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Save our children from Tobacco! An SOS to the Government and the Bollywood

  By : , Mumbai, India       18.12.2008         3 Comments          Phone:91-22-24177189          Fax:91-22-24146937          Mail Now
  Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Cancer Surgeon, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai

 We are happy that our health minister has a healthy outlook regarding tobacco therefore could embark on a healthy mission to safeguard our nation’s health. His move can be termed unhealthy for tobacco industry and few Bollywood health freaks. Perhaps, people who are passing vitriolic remark against this law are unaware of the implications of tobacco use to our country. Apart from killing 8 lakh Indians every year, tobacco alone is responsible for 1.5 lakh cancers, 4.2 million heart diseases, 3.7 million lung diseases in our countrymen every year. In India, 2,200 persons die every day from tobacco-related diseases. The cost of treating this ailing humanity, as estimated by ICMR in 1999, was 277.61 billion rupees. Unfortunately, tobacco use continues to grow at the rate of about 5-7 percent every year.

 The wicked tobacco industry has not spared our innocent children too. Each day 55,000 children in India start using tobacco and about 5 million children under the age of fifteen are addicted to tobacco. Gutka, the Indian avatar of tobacco, is specifically aimed at our young generation. It is projected as a harmless mouth freshener and therefore consumed in larger amount and kept in the mouth for a longer time by the ignorant children. A survey of school children in a coastal village of Kerala showed a 29 % prevalence of tobacco chewing and another survey in Mizoram showed that incidence of 56.5%.  The age for initiation for gutka consumption has been reported between 8 – 14 years in India. A survey done by the Indian Dental Association found that 10%-40% of school students and 70% of students in colleges in Mumbai chew gutka and paan masala. I did a survey of 986 school children in a rural part of Madhya Pradesh and found precursor of mouth cancers in 56 children. Therefore, the evidence of early onset of the tobacco habit and reports of increases in oral precursors of cancers among children raise serious concerns of an impending oral cancer epidemic in our country. The age incidence of oral cancer in India is going down and is significantly lower than reported in the rest of the world.

 The tobacco industry is harming our children in more than one way. It is well known that beedi industry uses children as bonded labors and makes money by keeping them in most in-human working conditions. What if they were our children! The recent ban on smoking may not have a great impact on this menace but will prompt the young vulnerable people to think several times before being addicted to this killer habit. WHO youth researchers reviewed more than 440 Bollywood films between 1991 to 2002 and found that tobacco portrayal was prevalent in nearly 3 out of four movies. It said in earlier films only the villains smoked, but increasingly most Bollywood films also showed heroes smoking. The famous superstar Shahrukh Khan has been showed to smoke on screen 109 times in last 12 years and legendary south Indian actor Rajnikant has smoked 103 times! Now that Shahrukh Khan is the MTV youth icon, he should exploit his position to educate the youth. Smoking cigarettes forms about only one fifth of India's tobacco market , rest smoke beedis. The multi-national tobacco companies have launched an aggressive campaign to capture and convert India's 250 million tobacco users to cigarette smokers, particularly the young.

India has 184 million tobacco consumers (17% of world tobacco users) of which 112 million smoke and 96 million chew tobacco. Ironically, tobacco chewing is socially acceptable form of tobacco. Several movies of Amitabh and Govinda have given tremendous popularity to this killer habit. This curiosity that movie stars create amongst children may eventually make them addicts. It gives the youngsters a false impression as if the stars chewed tobacco in real life too. It legitimizes this evil habit. I have deepest regards for people in Bollywood. I would urge them to help fight this preventable menace.

First time we have a health minister who has shown the courage to resist the tobacco mafia. I hope the doctor in him remains alive. There are several ways his powerful office can save our children from this misery. He will go down in the history of India as a “sensible” minister who worked for people.


   Dr P.G.Diwan, Santacruz, Mumbai
Reply Posted On :
18 - 5 - 2010

Dear Dr chaturvedi, It is an exceptional study of tobacco addict children in India.Awarness of ill effects of tobacco should be undertaken in schools.

There are many wrong ideas of tobacco in Indian women. Women in many rural areas believe that tobacco has many magical and medicinal properties; keeping the mouth clean, getting rid of a foul smell, curing toothache, controlling morning sickness, during labor pains, etc. It is found that, over 8.5 percent of the ante-natal mothers in India are tobacco users.

After a private practice as a dental surgeon for almost 50 years, I am studying Geriatric Dentistry. I have observed there are many cases of oral malignancies as aresult of tobacco by smoking as well as non smoking ways.I am 75 years now and can not take active part in field study.All the same I will keep on reading about your work and keep my self updated on this topic.If I can be of any help to you,I will be too glad to do so.

This year on 31st May which is supposed to be a "No Smoking Day" WHO has taken a wonderful theme "Gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women" .I wish every body who is working for this cause,great success.Thanking you-- Dr. P.G.Diwan.

   anjali mathur, gurgaon
Reply Posted On :
15 - 12 - 2009

I think most of the children who live on the roads and under bridges etc are the ones who are uneducated, uncared for and unprotected and so the hightest users of tobacco . If they can be rounded up and put in a safe plcae, tobacco use by children wewill fall to alrge extent

   pradeep dixit, noida
Reply Posted On :
8 - 11 - 2009

respected dr saheb sader pranam I have gone through your web site, thanks for great job done by you for huminty. i am assoiated with all world gayatri parivar, shanti kunj hardwar,world famous socio religious institute founded by sant philospher pd sriram sharma ''acharya''.atpresent our head is dr pranav pandiya MBBS MD.I have renderd my service to shanti kunj since 20 years.we worked for the well being of the masses through gayatri and yagna apart from that we are working in the field of adult educatin,health ,self reliance,environment women empowerment, vyasan unmoolan etc.we are having 3000 shakti peeth all over india.we have our own exhibations to bring awarenss in the masses in urban and rural areas.could you permt us to exhibt work done by you in our exhibition so your efforts reaches to the millions and benifitted . sir you can gone through our web site. Iam very keenly awaited your kind reply.
thanking you.
your brother


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