The government on Friday asserted that there is a direct link between tobacco consumption and cancer, trashing the stand taken by two BJP members of a parliamentary committee on the issue.
“There is a direct link between consumption of tobacco and cancer… The ministry is consistent and crystal clear in its efforts to reduce tobacco consumption… We will go ahead once the panel submits its report,” said Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda in the Lok Sabha during Question Hour.
Nadda rejected the claim that beedi smoking was less harmful than smoking a cigarette. “Most clinical and epidemiological studies from India demonstrate that beedi smoking is at least as hazardous as cigarette smoking in causing different lung diseases.”
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The Minister said the “relative risk of death due to tobacco use in studies from rural India is 40 per cent to 80 per cent higher for any type of tobacco use; 50-60 per cent higher for smoking, 15-30 per cent higher for tobacco chewing in men and women.”
Nadda maintained that his Ministry “is consistent and very crystal clear that the consumption of tobacco is to be reduced.” It plans to adopt a “multi-pronged strategy” for the purpose. “One of the strategies is to increase the pictorial warnings.” Though this aspect was faced with a procedural problem, the government would sort it out. He said the government will also introduce a programme to make schoolchildren aware of the tobacco-cancer link.
Two BJP MPs — former chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Subordinate Legislation Dilip Gandhi and a member of the panel Shyam Charan Gupta, had set off a controversy by claiming there was no Indian study to link the use of tobacco with cancer. The government has deferred a decision on a proposal to introduce pictorial warnings covering 85 per cent of packaging pending the committee’s final report. The new norm was to take an effect from April 1.
Supriya Sule (NCP) said her family had suffered from oral cancer, an allusion to her father and party president Sharad Pawar, who has undergone a protracted treatment. She welcomed Nadda’s reply, but requested him to “first sensitise the Subordinate Committee Members that there is a connection between cancer and tobacco because they constantly raised the issue.”