VELLORE: Christian Medical College and Hospital, Vellore (CMC Vellore) gets around 300 cases of oral cancer and another 300 affected by pre-cancer, every year, Dr Rabin Chakko, HoD of Dental and Oral Surgery, said. Because of widespread tobacco usage, the country has the largest cases of oral cancers in the world, the doctor said.
According to Dr Mohammed Mustafa, a dental surgeon who runs a tobacco users rehabilitation center here, the beedi smokers in Vellore district are on the increase. The number of smokers (including cigarette, cigar, chutta, cheroot, dhumti, chillum, hookah) would be around 10 lakhs in the region, he said.
Tobacco currently is the most loved consumer product by the commoners perhaps killing more people than AIDS, drugs, road accidents, homicides or a combination of all, Dr Mustafa said. Majority of tobacco users pick up smoking from schools and colleges, driven by peer pressure.
Sources in the business circle in the district said that around 2 crore beedies are being produced a day from the district and over 30 percent of them are consumed by the locals.
Though there is no data available on the penetration of the chewing tobacco products (pan, betal quid with tobacco, mainpuri, mawa, khaini) and applicants (mishri, guthaku, bajjar, creamy snuff) in the local markets, Dr Mustafa said that the tobacco chewing culture is creeping into Tamil Nadu from the North Indian states as the sales of these items were on the increase even in petty shops. He said that studies had shown that tobacco users were topping the list of patients who utilized the public health resources (diagnosis, medication, hospitalization etc) to the maximum extent.
The money spent by the government on the public health resources was far more than the tax revenue accrued from the sales of the tobacco products, Dr Mustafa said adding that the government should therefore ban the sales and consumption of tobacco products.
Yet, there is hope for those addicted to tobacco since counseling and treatment can help around 35 percent of them quit their habits, Dr Chakko said.
Mustafa’s rehab center is offering counseling to over 1,000 tobacco addicts a year besides diagnosing oral cancer cases (which is around 15 a year). His five step therapy revolves around preparing the patients, securing family support, helping to learn new skills and behaviors, getting medication and its right usage, and finally preparing the patients to get rid of relapse and difficult conditions.
The World No Tobacco Day is being observed today around the globe to draw attention to the use of tobacco and its negative health effects. Tobacco use is by far the most common risk factor for cancers of the mouth and throat. It kills 5.4 million people worldwide annually, according to World Health Organisation estimates.