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January 19, 2011 - The India Union Health Ministry revealed that it will be introducing a new policy against chewing smokeless tobacco which is being used by more than 25 percent of the population.
Speaking at the inauguration of a block at HSJ Institute of Dental Sciences and Hospital of Panjab University, Speaking at the inauguration of a block at HSJ Institute of Dental Sciences and Hospital of Panjab University, health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said that while the focus of the government’s anti-tobacco programmes have been on cigarettes and beedis, the rising number of tobacco chewing population has forced his department to try and come up with a policy specific to chewing tobacco.
Azad said that while recent figures reveal around 35 percent of the population is using tobacco, less than 9 percent use cigarettes or beedis with nearly 26 percent chewing tobacco. According to the health minister, more than 80 percent of oral cancer cases occur due to chewing tobacco.
“With the smokeless tobacco having the potential to create 80 percent of oral cancer, the Health Ministry is formulating a policy which is smokeless tobacco specific”, he added.
India has the highest number of oral cancers in the world after a group of entrepreneurs known locally as “gutka barons” turned a 400-year-old tobacco product hand-rolled in betel leaves into a spicy blend sold for 2 cents on street corners from Bangalore to New Delhi. Sales of chewing tobacco, worth 210.3 billion rupees ($4.6 billion) in 2004, are on track to double by 2014, according to Datamonitor, a branch of the international research firm based in Hyderabad, India. Gutka - chewing tobacco..Smokeless Tobacco: Challenges and Threat for India, Hemant Goswami, Health for the Millions 36(1) - Apr-May 2010.
India had almost 70,000 diagnosed cases of cancers of the mouth in 2008, the highest in the world ahead of the U.S. at 23,000 cases, according to statistics compiled by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. (India - govt releases results of Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS)..)
Two-Cent Chewing Tobacco for Kids Spreads Oral Cancer in India by Adi Narayan, Bloomberg.com, 11/29/2010.
Reference: Policy Against Smokeless Tobacco on the Anvil by Kathy Jones, Source-Medindia.net, 1/18/2011
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