In India, tobacco contributes to the increase in the number of oral cancer cases both in men as well as women. This is also partly due to high prevalence of tobacco chewing particularly in the tribal and rural pockets.
Way back in 2011, tobacco control was recognized as the ‘most urgent and immediate priority’ to reduce the deaths occurring due to cancer. According to the tobacco atlas prepared by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and US based Vital Strategies, every year, more than 932,600 Indians lose their lives to tobacco related diseases claim 17,887 lives in a week. Unless some aggressive steps are taken the situation will get worse and there is a possibility that the numbers may reach a staggering 8 million a year by 2030.
It is not that nothing is being done to prevent this miasma, but the efforts need to be more proactive and at the grass root level. Every year the world celebrates the Anti Tobacco day on 31st May to create more awareness on the ill effects of chewing tobacco and its repercussions on the quality of life. Change for better can happen only if people accept willingly instead of being forced upon.
In line with this, Coffee Bytes had a candid talk with Md. Imran Ali, Anti tobacco activist and an active member of Nasha Mukti Yuva Sankalp, a young group of likeminded youth who have been relentlessly carrying the anti tobacco torch as well as encouraging the youth, especially children to stay away from Tobacco.
“Our tryst with the anti tobacco campaign started way back in 2006, when we were pursuing MSW in NISWASS and were sent to the slums for our field work. We were confused about the repercussions and serious issues experienced by the people of the slums due to our inexperience. But one important thing that caught our attention was the rising addiction to chewing tobacco in different forms by teenagers. A pictorial warning on mouth cancer describing the shocking aftermath of tobacco chewing evoked a realisation of the immediate need to tackle it”.
Mr. Ali shared the latest statistics that says that about 2500 people succumb to mouth cancer due to tobacco consumption each day in India! Unfortunately, it’s a fact that India has become the capital of oral cancer in recent years globally.
The cooperation from the likeminded lawyers from CLAP helped them venture into active advocacy and they filed a petition for a blanket ban on tobacco chewing in every form in Odisha. After a meticulous dialogue with the concerned officials and the health minister of the state, their prayers were answered and the state government declared an official and legal ban on the use and sale of gutkha. He also told Coffee Bytes that n today’s era of digitalisation people have become more agile and aware but still many fall prey to addiction. To create awareness, Salam Jivan, a documentary was made to disseminate the disastrous effect of tobacco addiction and most significantly the symptoms leading to cancer. It was selected by Odisha government youth department to create awareness and was screened in more than 5000 campuses.
“Counselling the youth, parents and even the teachers oth in educational institutions and slums is very important. Currently we are advocating to stop sending children to buy this stuff as slowly this habit rubs on to them and they invariably get addicted to it. Since it is difficult to influence the addicts, utmost we can do is stop our future generation to stay away from this vice”, he concluded.
The theme for Anti Tobacco day this year is -Talk no tobacco. The children will pledge by no means they will touch this dangerous substance. Anti tobacco campaign will also include detection of early symptoms and appropriate medical assistance will be given.
Therefore let’s join in to pave the way for a TOBACCO FREE WORLD.
By Aditi Panda