A vital campaign against cancer

Catching them young.

Catching them young.  

CATCH THEM young, is probably the slogan of the companies manufacturing tobacco products. According to a survey undertaken world wide, 80 per cent of the adult smokers develop the habit before 18 years.

Tobacco-related cancer was focused upon in the campaign taken up by various organisations on National Cancer Awareness Day. Cancer Relief Society, Kochi South Rotary and the Department of Field Publicity of the Government of India have joined hands to start a campaign against tobacco.

Cancer of the mouth is a lifestyle disease, said former Supreme Court judge, V.R. Krishna Iyer while inaugurating the campaign on Thursday. Diseases cropping up due to changed food habits, like fast food consumption, are also on the rise, he said. He added that there is now more apprehension of diseases related to smokeless tobacco, referring to chewing tobacco produced in large quantities by the pan masala making companies.

Starting the campaign at the Darul Uloom Vocational Higher Secondary School, Pullepady, the organisers presented a slide show to students of impressionable age. ``The teenagers are the target of the tobacco companies,'' explained the Field Publicity officer, Suresh Sreedharan. Taking the students through a detailed show projecting the ill-effects of tobacco on the mouth parts, Mr. Sreedharan, told the children, ``if our show helps you to say an emphatic no to the offer of cigarettes or other tobacco products, the aim of the campaign will have been achieved''.

The available statistics provide a grim picture of tobacco related cancer. The mouth constitutes only two per cent of the whole body but 15 per cent of cancers occur in this part of it. There are also statistics showing that nine out of 10 individuals who get oral cancer are tobacco users.

According to Jose Emmanuel, who runs a dental clinic and the professional who has prepared the slide show, nine out of 10 smokers, who have tried to quit smoking, fail.

This is why it is relevant is create awareness on the need to keep away from smoking, he said.

``The focus is on demand reduction (of tobacco related products). We cannot do much on supply reduction because of various reasons. We want to spread sufficient awareness to keep the youngsters as non-users,'' Dr. Emmanuel said.

There are 10 lakh people dying every year in this country because of tobacco-related diseases, making tobacco the largest killer, explained Mr. Sreedharan.

The irony here is that the Government gets a revenue of Rs. 5,000 crores from tobacco which is grown in four lakh hectares, but the Government spends only Rs. 2,800 crore for the treatment of tobacco related diseases.

Giving the details about the toxic elements in tobacco, Mr. Sreedharan explained that there are 4000 chemicals in tobacco out of which 40-odd have been found to be carcinogenic. Those using tobacco in any form are found to be 70 times more prone to develop cancer if pre-cancerous symptoms are found in the mouth.

Those who stop smoking or using any other form of tobacco are also seen to regain their health in a relatively short period of time, he added.

He said that a dose of 65 mg of nicotine is lethal for the human body and left it to the children to understand the implication of taking in about 1 mg of the drug each time a cigarette is smoked. The economic aspect is another point, he added.

By Shyama Rajagopal

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