The Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV), Karnataka, has written to all the candidates in the fray for the May 5 Assembly elections to support prevention of cancer deaths in the State due to increasing tobacco use.

Tobacco is one of the world’s leading causes of death and disability, killing more than one million people in India annually, a communiqué said and added that nearly two crore people in Karnataka consume tobacco in various forms such as cigarette, beedi and gutka.

“It is estimated that nearly 25 to 30 lakh of these tobacco consumers will die prematurely due to cancers, heart attacks and lung diseases. India has the highest number of mouth cancers in the world that are tobacco-related. This is because tobacco contains more than 60 cancerous substances and 4,000 chemicals, which are severely detrimental to health,” the letter states.

The letter, which has been signed by Riyaaz Bhasha, associate professor, Community Medicine, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute; and Vishal Rao U.S., director of Cancer Prevention Project, Institute of Public Health, also includes a pledge form.

VoTV said that the health sector spends about Rs. 30,000 crore each year to treat tobacco-related diseases and most of this expenditure comes out of citizens’ pockets.

Prevention of these cancers is the only answer to reduce deaths, since treatments are “expensive and not very effective for cure”.

The letter states that India was one of the first countries that signed an international treaty with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to prevent these young deaths and control tobacco by following the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC).