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Chavan supports initiative against tobacco

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has assured a team of doctors who met him recently that there will be no government funding for any activity that directly or indirectly supports the tobacco industry.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
June 29, 2011 4:11:51 am

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has assured a team of doctors who met him recently that there will be no government funding for any activity that directly or indirectly supports the tobacco industry. He also signed a pledge supporting a ban on tobacco.

Tata Memorial Hospital director Dr R A Bawde and associate professor Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi had submitted to Chavan a charter of demands,which included a ban on gutka and an end to indirect advertising of chewing tobacco products. Chaturvedi said they had demanded an end to sale of chewing tobacco products near educational institutions,raising taxes on all tobacco products and implementing policies and programmes that reflect the demands of tobacco victims.

The doctors had met the Maharashtra Chief Minister to get his support for their initiative to control the tobacco menace,especially gutka and pan masala,in the state. Chavan reportedly told them that he would take up the issue with the ministries concerned,revive the tobacco cell in the state and make Tata Memorial Hospital a part of it.

The chief ministers of Chattisgarh,Goa,Kerala,Karnataka,Rajasthan and Uttarakhand have signed a similar pledge — “I will raise my voice against this issue and support all initiatives to rid India of this menace of gutka and khaini and help save millions of Indian lives”. They were approached by doctors and victims of oral cancers,on behalf of the Voice of Tobacco Victims.

Voice of Tobacco Victims (VOTV) is a national campaign,advocating against chewing tobacco and other smokeless forms. It was initiated by oral cancer victims to promote greater awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use and for demanding stronger enforcement of tobacco control laws and a ban on chewing tobacco in the country.

VOTV is being supported in this initiative by doctors of regional cancer centres across the country. In March,directors of 17 regional cancer centres in India,including the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC),had written letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on their demands.

Dr Chaturvedi was selected as the Global Cancer Ambassador to represent India in the United Nations. Chaturvedi,who recently participated in the New York meet to discuss the cancer control strategies for the upcoming United Nations Summit,said the World Health Organisation had called for cutting down the tobacco usage to five per cent by 2040 by enforcing strict measures.

India has the highest number of oral cancer cases in the world,with 75,000 to 80,000 new cases being reported every year. Chewing tobacco and gutka contribute to 90 per cent of the oral cancer cases in the country. Easy availability of this mixture of areca nut (supari),slaked lime and certain food additives,in small,affordable pouches in every nook and corner of the country has become a serious health hazard. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2010),released in October 2010,says nearly one third of the Indian population is addicted to smokeless tobacco.

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