With almost ten percent of Indian population smoking beedis, cancer surgeons are amazed how it has not been included in Chitambaram’s tax net. Another grudge that oncologist have is that the increase in tax levied on cigarettes is not large enough. According to Pankaj Chaturvedi of Tata Memorial Hospital, other south Asian countries levy a much heavier tax on the cancer stick and India is just trying to please both the consumer and the producers with such a low tax rate. According to the WHO (World Health Organisation) the taxes should be as high as 65%.
Chaturvedi was of the opinion that this marginal rise in the tax is simply an eyewash, and smokers would be willing to pay a marginal rise in prices to keep smoking the same number or cigarettes. He said that the rise in price will not cause a huge change in the number of smokers. Failure to raise tax on smokeless tobacco has disheartened most cancer surgeons as well. They say that there is a rise in lung cancer among women also. India has the highest number of oral cancer patients with 75, 000 to 80, 000 new cases reported every year.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2010) released in October 2010, one third of the Indian population is addicted to smokeless tobacco. Kamlesh Bokil, head and neck cancer surgeon at Ruby Hall Clinic, said that the government had failed when it came to tracking and reducing the consumption of beedis, and the ban on gutka was a bit too late.