Nagpur: It may come as a shock for many, but not for the experts who blame it all on the rising habit of consuming tobacco among up and growing Nagpur youths. The real culprits here are kharra pudi or zarda or khaini that is getting the city a dubious distinction of new capital of oral cancer in the country. Yes Nagpur is fast emerging as the new capital of oral cancer and the major contributors are the outbound patients coming from entire Vidarbha region and neighboring areas of Madhya Pradesh to get cure from this deadly disease.
In an exclusive interview with Nagpur Today, star campaigner who succeeded in bringing about ban on sale of Tobacco pouches, Professor and Head of the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at Tata Memorial Hospital Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, brought a scare to the smokers and tobacco users, through some facts and figures.
Dr Pankaj said that in Maharashtra alone, 2.5 crore people use tobacco, of which 65 lakh people smoke bidis, 25 lakh people smoke cigarettes and 1.5 crores chew tobacco products. This data is based on the survey done by Ministry of Health in 2010 and declared by then Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad.
Dr Chaturvedi said since Nagpur has maximum number of hospitals for taking such cases as compared to any other city in the region, it gets large number of patients. He said some of the shocking facts that came to the fore is that one third (1/3) of tobacco users die pre-maturely because of cancer, heart-attack, or other related diseases.
The only reason, the Government tolerates this alarming figure despite Tobacco being the only consumer product in the whole world which has got no beneficial role apart from causing cancer, death and disability. All because of the revenue, generated through taxes. An RTI query revealed that the taxes from tobacco are significant. According to State Food and Drugs Administration Minister Satish Patil, the entire revenue generated from tobacco products (excluding smokeless tobacco products) is Rs 100 crores.
The report released by former Health and Education Minister Harsh Vardhan, the annual loss due to tobacco related diseases is around Rs 7000 crores in Maharashtra.
In Maharashtra, the loss to the government by way of treating tobacco related diseases is Rs 6.8 crores. The government is the net loser with many dead-bodies because of tobacco related diseases. On one hand the bidis are sold free of any tax and on the other hand, government spends crores in treating cancer patients, majority of them being Bidi smokers.
In Maharashtra, the number of smokers is 90 lakhs, of which 65 lakhs smoke bidis and only 25 lakhs smoke cigarettes. The real havoc is caused by bidis, he claimed.
Maharashtra Government considers Alcohol and Tobacco as demerit goods. There is a misconception that higher taxes deter people from using tobacco products. Former Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Prafulla Patel and businessman who is also considered the King of Bidis in this part of the country had allegedly opposed increase of taxation on tobacco products.
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi also heads an NGO called Voice of Victims of Tobacco working for Campaign and Justice to Tobacco Victims. He added that the very graphical images and statutory warnings are only to escape and avoid liability suits.
Dr Pankaj also called this as a crime committed by major tobacco industries. He related a surprising fact. He said that the moment Dr Harsh Vardhan was removed from the post of Health Minister, a significant 4 % rise in ITC stocks was observed in the stock market. However, as soon as Arun Jaitley took oath, a drop of 3 % was observed. These tobacco giants are killing people, he claimed.
Facts of smoking
The moment a smoker lights a cigarette and pulls in smoke, 3600 Toxic Chemicals enter the body. Of the 3600 chemicals, 28 Carcinogens (Cancer causing) enter the body. Every puff reduces the life of a smoker by 60%. Unlike alcohol (the habit of which can be left), Cigarettes have Nicotine. Nicotine makes the smoker a slave to smoking (Nicotine). Among the urban populace 27.5 crores are known to use tobacco.
Every teenager wants to tryout everything that is banned or has been considered bad/illicit, during their adolescence. Cigarettes are one of that. At that age, they do not know or realize the gravity of their action. Dr Pankaj claimed that in-fact, cigarettes are worse than opium or heroine.
Dr. Pankaj while clarifying that “not to sound sexist”, in the recent times, young girls are falling prey to cigarettes. Just to prove that they can also do what boys do or are falling prey to the peer pressure and trying out cigarettes just for the fun of it. However, soon they become slave of the habit. Dr Pankaj added that the ill-effects of smoking can have long-term impact (especially when they get pregnant after marriage).
Impact of Nicotine
According to Dr Pankaj, nicotine rewires the whole brain to make the smoker an addict. It makes the smoker dependent on cigarettes to function normally. The nicotine goes to the brain and leads to the release of a neuro-transmitter chemical called Dopamine. This is also called as the Reward System. The smoker gets Euphoria that he is happy, energized or elated. Since the release of Dopamine uses the same limbic pathway as when one performs a good deed and is acknowledged (One generally feels very good). Dr Pankaj also claimed that it is very difficult to quit smoking. He added that there have been cases, where one can relapse after 3 years.
Professor and Head of the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at Tata Memorial Hospital Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi was in the city to deliver an important lecture during the Silver Jubilee celebrations of VSPM Dental College. He was delivering a lecture on Head and Neck Surgery.
By Samuel Gunasekharan