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Year : 2010  |  Volume : 47  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 1-

Special issue on tobacco is a gift from the 14WCTOH

P Chaturvedi 
 Associate Professor, Head and Neck Department, Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel - 400 012, Mumbai, India

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P Chaturvedi
Associate Professor, Head and Neck Department, Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel - 400 012, Mumbai

How to cite this article:
Chaturvedi P. Special issue on tobacco is a gift from the 14WCTOH.Indian J Cancer 2010;47:1-1

How to cite this URL:
Chaturvedi P. Special issue on tobacco is a gift from the 14WCTOH. Indian J Cancer [serial online] 2010 [cited 2022 May 28 ];47:1-1
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I am pleased to share with you some of the work that was presented in the World Congress on Tobacco or Health 2009, at Mumbai. I would like to place on record the exemplary efforts of Dr. P C Gupta and Padmini Somani, aided by stalwarts of tobacco control in India and abroad, which made this congregation memorable. To preserve the academic contributions of this meeting forever and also to disseminate the contents through an indexed journal, the organizing committee decided to get a special issue of the Indian Journal of Cancer (IJC). I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Purvish Parikh, Editor, IJC, who was magnanimous enough to accept our proposal. In addition, all the abstracts and Powerpoint and the video of presentations have been posted on the Fourteenth World Conference on Tobacco or Health (14 th WCTOH) website .

Tobacco is the biggest public health challenge in the current Indian society. This year, there will be about one million tobacco deaths in India and about 70% of these deaths will occur prior to old age. Tobacco is responsible for one in five of all male deaths in middle age. Indian smokers lose ten years of their lives, mainly as a result of tuberculosis, respiratory and heart diseases, and cancer. Tobacco, as per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) study, in 1996, was responsible for 42 lakh cases of coronary artery disease and 37 lakh chronic obstructive lung diseases, as well as about 1.5 lakh new cancers! The problem has percolated to our kids and adolescents, with nearly 50% of school children using tobacco products in northeast India. Unfortunately, only 2% of the Indian adults quit the habit only after falling ill.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization has categorized tobacco as a category I carcinogen (confirmed human carcinogen). It defies all logic that such a product is classified as a consumer product and is permitted to be sold without any restriction. As usual, India has reasonably strong laws, but the implementation and monitoring remains pathetic. The Indian laws prohibit direct and indirect advertisements of tobacco products. However, advertisement of non-tobacco products with the same name as tobacco products is rampant all over the country. Smoking in public places remains unabated in most parts of India and sale to minors continues. This allows the tobacco industry, retailers, shopkeepers, and careless tobacco users to openly flout the law. Surprisingly, the public at large is very tolerant of such violations and hardly considers it as an important public health problem.

This industry, riddled with hundreds of billion dollar lawsuits and stringent laws in developed nations is targeting east Europe, Asia, and Africa with several hundred million consumers. The current delay in the implementation of a new set of pictorial warnings in India is another example of the might of the tobacco lobby. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) mandates regulations that require warnings to appear on all packaging and advertisements for tobacco products. Canada was the first country in the world to implement such strong labeling and reporting measures. These warnings quickly spread around the world and the Canadian system was adopted in many developed and developing nations. I sincerely hope that India will have its new set of pictorial warnings in place by December, 2010.

Last but not the least, I wish the government realizes that Areca Nut (betel nut or supari) is an equally serious problem in our country being as addictive as tobacco. Guthka and Pan masala (with or without tobacco) are becoming a bigger challenge than smoking and the myth that '0% tobacco' products are safe, needs to be broken. The market for this product is growing at such a large pace that one of the leading cigarette manufacturers has launched its own pan masala brand. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), France, has classified Areca Nut as a class one carcinogen. As Area Nut is purely an Indian problem, we have to do our own research and come out with regulations.