"India spending three times more money to treat tobacco-related diseases than revenue from tobacco": Prof Surya Kant

Manjari Peiris, Sri Lanka 
[First published in Asian Tribune, on February 7, 2019]
Worldwide tobacco industry's so-called claim that they are revenue earners for governments and are good for the country's' economy is a totally baseless one.

“As per a Ministry of Health report of 2015-2016, annual medical costs incurred on people between 35-59 years of age who develop diseases due to tobacco use is INR 1,04,500 crores while the combined tax revenue collected annually from tobacco products is INR 31,000 crores annually. So India is spending three times more money than what it is earning from the revenue from tobacco,” said Professor Surya Kant, President, National College of Chest Physicians, India addressing a webinar hosted by Citizen News Service (CNS) to commemorate World Cancer Day 2019.

Worldwide cancer causes more deaths than HIV, TB and malaria combined. More than 70% of these deaths occur in low and middle income countries. Tobacco is a risk factor for 25 life threatening diseases, including many types of cancers. India is a country where there is high association between tobacco and cancer causing 1 million tobacco related deaths in a year and it is the world leader in oral cancer cases due to high usage of chewing tobacco.

Globally around 1100 million people smoke tobacco and around 300 million people use smokeless tobacco. 8 million people each year due to tobacco use-7 million from smoking and the rest 1 million due to consuming smokeless forms of tobacco.

Cancer statistics in India reveal an estimated number of people living with cancer to be around 2.25 million. Risk of developing cancer before the age of 75 years in males is 9.8% and in females, it is 9.4%. Oral cavity cancer and lung cancer account for over 25% of cancer deaths in males. Breast cancer and oral cavity cancer account for 25% deaths in females.

Lung cancer is the most common occurring cancer worldwide and accounted for 11.6% of new cancer cases in 2018. Tobacco smoking is most common preventable cause of lung cancer. It accounts for 25-30% of all cancer deaths-1 in every 3 cancer deaths. Compared with non-smokers, male smokers are 23 times and female smokers are 17 times more likely to develop lung cancer.

5-10% of all cancer cases are due to genetic defects. Rest 90-95% are due to environment and lifestyle changes, which are preventable. Lifestyle modifications can go a long way in preventing cancer as unhealthy diet, obesity and metabolic syndrome are together responsible for 30-35% of cancer cases. Environmental pollution (outdoor and indoor pollution) is another important factor. So air pollution is a major concern and drastic action at government level is needed to reduce it.

Manjari Peiris, Citizen News Service - CNS
February 7, 2019