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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Tobacco makes us lose Rs 16,000cr a year

Jagruti Chasmawala is a gold medallist in MDS (Oral Pathology) and MDS(Orthodontics) from Mumbai University
STATISTICS SHOW that 25 per cent of India’s population is addicted to a form of tobacco; this means that there are at least 25 crore abusers and the numbers are growing rapidly in spite of all the public awareness programmes conducted by government and non-government organisations. In India, the tobacco habit is of epidemic proportions since the incidence of tobacco-related diseases, like heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc., is 48 per cent while the world average is only about 2 to 3 per cent. The largest numbers of deaths from tobacco-related diseases are due to heart attack and not, as is commonly believed, lung cancer or other forms of cancer. Asian males are genetically more susceptible to heart disease; their risk doubles if they abuse tobacco. Tobacco kills half of its regular consumers. To add to the problem, India has the third-largest population of female tobacco abusers.
People indulge in the tobacco habit by chewing, smoking and smearing of tobacco products on teeth and gums. These include tobacco, tobacco-lime paste, paan with tobacco, tobacco tooth paste, gutka, mawa, paan masala with tobacco, masheri, creamy snuff, beedi, cigarettes, cigar, hookah, chillum, etc. Then, there are the enduring myths about tobacco. Tobacco helps me to study and concentrate better. Tobacco keeps me slim. Tobacco helps protect my teeth and gums. I am not addicted. I can give up any time I like. I have great will power; I don’t need professional help to quit. I am under a lot of stress; so I need tobacco to cope.
These excuses arise during counselling quite regularly. All one can say is that there are any numbers of excuses to get addicted to tobacco but it is important to find that one reason that can persuade you to give it up. Be it a new born baby, a pregnant wife, a cancer-struck neighbour, the collapse of an apparently healthy relative, the death of your smoking buddy, unexplained vision loss, rising blood pressure, your inability to perform last night, the loss of hearing, your family doctor’s repeated warnings, the peeping grays that are begging for hair colour, the boil that refuses to settle down, the wrinkles that you just noticed, the dullness of the skin that did not respond to the expensive facial, the kiss that didn’t quite taste right, the breathlessness after climbing the stairs, the irritating cough that interrupts your sales pitch to an important client. The list is endless.
Passive smoking or second-hand smoke increases the risk of killer diseases like heart disease to the person in the same room as a smoker. Third-hand smoke refers to the lingering toxins after the cigarette has been extinguished. It is known to affect babies and growing children even after 48 hours. It also lingers in the clothes and hair of the smoker. ETS: Emitted Tobacco Smoke, which is 250 times more polluting than air pollution itself. Killer diseases mainly refer to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
India is the third-largest producer of tobacco in the world. Hence, the tobacco industry here is naturally powerful and has enough clout to dictate terms to the government. Yet, the yearly collection of revenue is about Rs 14,000 crore, while, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research, the direct cost of tobacco abuse is more than Rs 30,000 crore. The figures are so grossly divergent that it is easy to figure out that both the abuser and the government, meaning the taxpayers, are in a lose-lose situation. Mind you, the indirect costs have not been included in this figure, such as the costs of passive smoking. But most tobacco abusers remain ignorant of these disturbing medical and economic facts and the tobacco industry continues to flourish.
IT IS obvious that the tobacco industry could not care less. As the number of abusers grow, it is better for them. As consumers, it is up to us to decide who benefits and act accordingly. We need to merely remember that the family pays more than a user does. If this is not enough, there are the benefits of giving up. Improved health and wellness; avoiding killer diseases; quicker healing and fewer complications in case of disease or injury; increased productivity and manhours; improved cleanliness in public places and reduced spread of infectious diseases due to spitting, direct monetary savings from `15,000 a year, indirect monetary benefits, i.e., approximately 30 per cent reduction in medical bills, reduced insurance premiums, and reduction in ets leading to a better environment and reduces risks of second and third hand smoke. Also, tobacco smoke is far more injurious than mere air pollution. But, it would appear that the populace needs more than reason to do so.