Call for ban on production and possession of tobacco

Staff Reporter

Seminar on ‘Beedi and Public Health’ held

There are 100 million beedi smokers in India

’Smoking beedis increases the chances of tuberculosis infection’

Bangalore: Beedis, which consists of uncured tobacco rolled in tendu leaf, is smoked by 100 million people in India and kill more people than any other tobacco product. Yet there are no restrictions on its sale either through taxes or health warnings, said Ashok M. Shenoy, Medical Superintendent, Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology.

Speaking at a seminar on “Beedi and Public Health” organised by the Voluntary Health Association of Karnataka here on Tuesday, Dr. Shenoy said, “Taxes on beedis must be increased and there must be a legislation to cut down on tobacco production.”

Besides the dangers it poses to those who smoke it, beedi workers are equally vulnerable to its hazards, because the toxins get absorbed by the skin and the tobacco dust is inhaled leading to several respiratory and allergic conditions, Dr. Shenoy said.

V.S. Malimath, former Chief Justice of the Karnataka and Kerala High Courts, said that the State was not doing enough to prevent smoking. “Why is the ban on smoking in public not being enforced? The State has a constitutional obligation to provide a safe environment. There must be a total ban on the production, possession and smoking of tobacco, he said.

Highlighting the health implications of smoking beedi, Prakash C. Gupta, Healis Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health, Mumbai, said,“Smoking beedis cause many of the same diseases that cigarettes do, such as lung cancer, oral cancer, heart disease. But smoking beedis increases the chances of tuberculosis infection and manifestation and multi-drug resistance.

Worryingly, the habit is catching on among the youth, said Dr. Gupta, especially among students between 13 to 15.

“The Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2003 had revealed that four per cent of children who smoked, owned objects such as bags which had images or logos of beedi brands on it. . Eight per cent had even been offered free beedi samples,” he added.