Cancer rates, deaths rising by 10%: Tobacco endgame an urgent priority

[हिंदी] [Webinar] The number of cancer cases, as well as cancer deaths in India, rose by almost 10% between 2011 and 2014, as per the state-wise cancer data of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). 44% of all people who got cancer in India succumbed to it in 2014.

“Number of people who got cancer in India rose from 1028503 in 2011 to 1117269 in 2014. Cancer deaths also shot up from 452541 in 2011 to 491597 in 2014. Increase in the number of cancer cases may be attributed to use of tobacco and tobacco products, unhealthy diet, ageing population, unhealthy lifestyles, among others” said Shobha Shukla, Executive Director of CNS.

“Tobacco is the single largest preventable risk factor for all cancers: 20% of all cancer deaths and up to 70% of lung cancer deaths are due to tobacco use. Tobacco is also a common and major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) not just for cancer, but also for other NCDs such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes, etc” said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant, WHO Director-General’s Awardee.

"Cardio-vascular diseases could be significantly prevented if we do effective tobacco control" said Professor (Dr) Rishi Sethi of Cardiology Department, King George's Medical University (KGMU).

“Cigarette or beedi smoking is the single most important risk factor for lung cancer. Bidi is even more carcinogenic. There is a 10 fold increased risk of lung cancer in smokers and 20 times more risk in heavy smokers. History of active tobacco smoking is present in 87% of male and 85% of female lung cancer patients” said Professor (Dr) Surya Kant, Head of Respiratory Medicine department at King George’s Medical University (KGMU). Prof Surya Kant is also the organizing secretary of 70th National Conference of TB and Chest Diseases (NATCON, 20-21 February 2016) where lung cancer will be one of the major topics for scientific discussions.

MYTH: Hookah/ water-pipe smoking is less harmful

“Hookah or water-pipe smoking is often mistakenly perceived as less harmful to health than cigarettes. However, the truth is that during a one-hour hookah or water-pipe smoking session users can inhale more smoke than they would from smoking 100 cigarettes. The smoke inhaled by water-pipe contains charcoal combustion products, carcinogenic substances, carbon-monoxide, volatile aldehydes, ultrafine particles and other toxicants. Sharing water-pipes may also transmit infections” said Professor (Dr) Elif Dagli of International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (The Union).

Tobacco smoking was prohibited in public places from 2nd October 2008 as per provisions of India’s Cigarette and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003. Why, then are smoke-free laws not implemented in hookah parlours which are mushrooming at an alarming pace in urban areas? Even nonsmokers who are exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to develop lung cancer due to exposure to secondhand smoke. Also pictorial graphic warnings and tobacco taxes should be applied on hookah or water-pipe as well.

“Preventing initiation in adolescents is the most effective tobacco use prevention strategy” said Dr Tara Singh Bam, Regional Advisor (tobacco control) of The Union. India’s Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 which came into force on 15th January 2016, recognizes the harmful effects of tobacco and tobacco industry’s sinister design to specifically target vulnerable children as their new consumers. This Act has modified its Section 77 as follows:  'It is an offence against a child, if a person gives or causes to be given, to any child any intoxicating liquor or any narcotic drug or tobacco products or psychotropic substance, except on the order of a duly qualified medical practitioner, shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to a fine which may extend up to one lakh rupees.'

World Cancer Day

On this World Cancer Day we appeal to the government to strictly enforce Juvenile Justice Act, Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003, and other public health policies so that not only cancer rates come down but also major risk factors, like tobacco use, stop putting people’s lives at heightened risk of premature and avoidable death.

(About the author: Dr Raghav Gattani, MBBS, Junior Consultant at Avadh Hospital and Heart Center is also the honorary Medical Correspondent for CNS - Citizen News Service)
4 February 2016