The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) devised by the WHO and the Centre for Disease Control Atlanta (US), implemented with the help of the state government revealed that 31.4% of the adult population in Maharashtra use tobacco in some form or the other. That means about 2 crore adults in the state use tobacco.
Dr Chaturvedi, a head and neck surgeon at the Tata Memorial Cancer Centre, said the tobacco-related disease epidemic is no longer just a public health concern, it’s a major economic concern for the state. “According to WHO data, one in three adults die prematurely due to tobacco-related problems, which means in Maharashtra 66 lakh patients will have life threatening illnesses due to tobacco consumption,” he said. “Many of the patients’ treatment costs, which can run up to lakhs of rupees, will have to be borne by the government. Even if 10% of the patients need government help for treatment, the government will be spending Rs6,000 crore to treat diseases that are preventable.”
The state government, however, seems to be sluggish in enforcing laws to curb tobacco use. The anti-tobacco lobby suffered a setback on Wednesday when the government order enforcing a regulation of the Food Safety and Standards Act and banning the manufacture and sale of gutkha in the state died in the cabinet proceedings.
What’s unfortunate is that while most tobacco users think about kicking the butt, but very few actually do it. According to the survey, only 3.6% of daily adult tobacco users in Maharashtra have successfully given up the habit in the past 12 months. Even though the number of those in the state who’ve quit smoking is low, the number of adults who’ve attempted to stop consuming tobacco is slightly higher.
31.3% of smokers and 29.7% of tobacco chewers attempted to quit over the last 12 months. These abysmally low figures, according to Dr Prakash Gupta, director of Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, is because of a lack of awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco as well as the lack of anti-tobacco legislation in the state.
64.6% need to have tobacco within half an hour of waking up showing the extent to which the disease has become a habit in Maharashtra. And youth in the state are taking up the habit, which according to WHO data causes the premature death of one in three adults in India. A total of 27.4% men and 8.3% of women between the age of 15 and 24 have admitted to using tobacco.
“Earlier, it was unthinkable of anyone below the age of 35 contracting head and neck cancers due to tobacco use. Now, we get patients as young as 22 to 24 years who contracted the disease,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck cancer surgeon at Tata Memorial Centre.