As India continues to witness 2.5-3 lakh new cases of head and neck cancer every year, the country’s leading oncologists urged the government to remove tobacco and cigarette vendors from near school and college premises.
According to them, even the implementation of 85 per cent pictorial warnings on packets of tobacco and cigarette would not have any effect on children in later stages after they have picked up the habit of consuming tobacco.
“Unlike earlier, now the cases of head and neck cancer, which often used to occur among adults in their 60s, have now started occurring among youngsters in their early 30s. This is all because of their addiction to consuming tobacco during school,” Anil D’ Cruz, Director of Mumbai-based Tata Memorial Centre, said on Wednesday.
Every year India records a total of 11-12 lakh new cases of cancer, of which 2.5-3 lakh cases are of head and neck cancer. Eighty per cent of head and neck cancer are caused by tobacco alone.
“Once the Government takes initiative to remove tobacco vendors from near schools and college premises, tobacco consumption among youngsters will automatically decline. The government has laws but they are not implemented,” said D’Cruz.
Professor of Otolaryngology & Head Neck Surgery at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Alok Thakar said: “The situation is such that for alcohol there are restrictions but why not for tobacco and others. Ninety per cent of the youngsters pick up the habit of consuming tobacco before the age of 20.”
The doctors were speaking at the Global Conference of the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies in collaboration with the Foundation for Head and Neck Oncology (FHNO).
A total of 700 delegates from 12 countries are participating in the conference to discuss the new technologies and medical advancements for dealing with India-specific Head and Neck Cancers.
Thakar said the government should move for higher taxation instead of the pictorial warnings to curb tobacco consumption.
“There is no taxation on beedis and chewable tobacco which is killing people of the country every minute, every second. In countries like Australia and the US, taxation is the only way they use in bringing down consumption of such products,” Thakar said.
“Countries like France and South Africa have decreased tobacco consumption in one decade which the US took four decades just by increasing the taxation,” added Thakar.
Suresh Sharma, Head of Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department at AIIMS said : “Even the size of the population and the types of tobacco products available in the market have increased… more needs to be done. Primarily the biggest problem is the presence of beedi and cigarette sellers in every nook and corner.”