India loses 1 per cent of its GDP to diseases and early deaths from tobacco use, according to a study by World Health Organization (WHO). With nearly 29 per cent adults using tobacco, India is the second leading consumer of tobacco products after China. As per WHO estimates, the direct health expenditure on treating tobacco related diseases alone accounts for 5.3 per cent of total private and public health spending in India in a year. While men accounted for 91 per cent of the total economic burden related to tobacco, women accounted for the remaining 9 per cent. About 93 per cent of the economic costs were borne by those in the age group 35-69, while those 70 and above shared the remaining 7 per cent. World No Tobacco Day is observed on May 31 to spread awareness about the consequences of using tobacco.
Tobacco use, which is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), accounts for over 8 million deaths per year around the world. In India, tobacco use causes close to 13.5 lakh preventable deaths per year. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), tobacco-related cancers accounted for 27 per cent of the country's cancer burden in 2020.
"Smoking and exposure to passive smoke can lead to various health problems like asthma, infertility, heart attack, cognitive impairment, and other serious illness," stated Dr Trivikrama Rao Mopidevi, Consultant Medical Oncologist, American Oncology Institute, Hisar.
Most people associate lung cancer with tobacco, but did you know there are 16 cancers that can be caused by smoking?
"All tobacco related products in the form of smokeless or smoking causes cancer. There are various types of cancer caused due to tobacco including cancer of the lung, larynx (voice box), mouth, nose, sinuses, esophagus (food pipe), throat, urinary bladder, ureter, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon (large intestine) and rectum, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia (blood cancer). Tobacco products such as pipe tobacco, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigar, khaini, zarda, gutka and others have cancer causing agents like nicotine and carcinogen. Daily or uncontrolled tobacco consumption might also lead to severe health complications," said Dr Rao.
Every time you take a puff of a cigarette, 7000 chemicals enter the lungs and spread to other parts of the body, including 69 known carcinogens. Stomach cancer is one of the most common and deadly cancers in the world, especially for men. Did you know smoking increases the odds of stomach cancer by 61 per cent?
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A study on the risk of developing cancer in India in the age group of 35 70 + years showed the tobacco-related cancers (TRCs) were high in males (4.75 per cent) as compared to females (2.16 per cent). The study also stated that nearly 45 per cent of cancer in males and 20 per cent of cancer in females are due to tobacco use.
What steps India can take to prevent tobacco-related cancers?
Dr Rao noted that the country is facing a dual burden with the two forms of tobacco use: smoking and exposure to passive smoke.
He noted," There is an urgent need to spread awareness around the need to quit smoking and tobacco consumption. A comprehensive tobacco control programs should be adopted and implemented at the ground level for effective outcomes. Strategies like mass media campaigns across schools, colleges, universities, labor driven workplaces, and other institutes should be undertaken. There should be strict implementation of smoke-free laws and policies, evidence-based school programs, and sustained community-wide efforts, regular screening for cancers in those at high risk of cancer."
"Encouraging the use of nicotine patches, gums and lozenges will further enable people to quit the use of tobacco products. In case of difficult to stop cases, psychiatrist consultation can be sought and with help of counselling and some medicines, tobacco urge can be controlled while helping to quit tobacco," he added.
Motivate tobacco consumers to shun the habit
Tobacco is addictive and it is difficult for tobacco consumers to quit on their own. "Motivation and support is critical to overcome the dependence on tobacco," said Dr. Sudhir Rawal, Medical Director, RGCIRC.
Dr. Aswati Nair, Fertility Consultant, Nova IVF Fertility, Delhi, also acknowledged that quitting smoking can be extremely tough, but she noted that working with a healthcare provider and/or a support group increases your chances of success.
Dr. Nair asserted, "Temporary use of a nicotine substitute (such as nicotine gum or patch) and/or a prescription medication called bupropion can help people quit smoking, and these can be used while attempting to conceive if necessary. Although it is not recommended to use them during pregnancy, you and your healthcare provider may determine to do so after assessing the risks and benefits."