Harsher cancer warning on tobacco products in the offing

Harsher cancer warning on tobacco products in the offing

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said Wednesday that the government was in the process of formulating a harsher policy on pictorial warnings after a report from Global Adult Tobacco Survey India in January had presented an alarming cancer scenario among tobacco users.

"We are in the process of formulating a new policy. We will have one policy for the type of pictorial warning for cigarette and bedi and another harsher warning for chewing, smokeless tobacco. This is because chewing tobacco is more dangerous and is being used by more number of people. It causes cancer in more users," Azad told reporters.

"The pictorial warnings are in the process of notification and can be notified any day. The Directorate of Visual Publicity has selected some pictures. There will be two types of warnings -- for cigarettes and for smokeless tobacco," he added.

Azad was addressing the media to highlight the achievements of the health ministry under him since 2009. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey found out that 35 percent of Indian adults use tobacco in some form or the other, the minister said.

"Most unfortunately, 35 percent adult Indians use tobacco. Of this, 80 percent are men and 20 percent women. Of the 35 percent, 26 percent men and women use chewing tobacco and only nine percent smoke cigarettes," Azad said, reeling out figures from the study.

He said among the tobacco users with cancer, 80 percent was caused by chewing tobacco while only 20 percent due to cigarette use. "Most people are worried about cigarettes, not knowing about the harm caused by smokeless tobacco," he added.

Azad noted that the Gobal Adult Tobacco Survey was the "biggest ever" in India conducted in 28 states and two union territories with technical cooperation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and full funding by the Indian health ministry.

Tobacco was adding to both oral and lung cancer among Indians, he said, adding that all along India had relied on international agencies such as WHO for warnings about prevalence of cancer.

"Now we are trying to create a data of our own... a better data through screening in the entire country for both detection and treatment of cancer," he said. He also noted that the government would launch a national programme for control and prevention of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and stroke, first in 100 districts in the most difficult and remote areas and later across the entire nation.

Under the programme, the health ministry would provide Rs 1 lakh assistance to cancer patients for early detection and treatment.  "About 100 patients in each of the 100 districts would get this assistance. That is, about 10,000 cancer patients in the select districts would be granted the funds for their treatment," he added. He also quoted from a WHO warning on cancer to note that by 2015 the number of cancer deaths in India would touch seven lakh.