GUWAHATI, Aug 25 � Making an effort to lower the incidence of oral cancer in Assam, some cancer victims have urged the State Government to ban all types and brands of gutka. The link between chewing tobacco and oral cancer has been clearly established by scientific research.
In a recent programme organised by the Voluntary Health Association of Assam (VHAA) and Dr B Borooah Cancer Institute (BBCI), Guwahati, victims of oral cancer narrated their own experience and fervently expressed hope that others should not suffer the same ordeal.
In the programme �Meet and listen to voice of Tobacco Victims,� men and women underlined the need to confront the growing tobacco menace that was one of the main reasons for oral cancer in the State.
Indoor patient of BBCI, Rina Das (name changed), aged 52 years, from Barpeta, suffering from tobacco-related cancer, shared how her health and her family life suffered due to her habit of tobacco chewing. She appealed to the Government to take immediate action for banning all kinds of tobacco products so that the future generations do not become crippled.
Hari Nath (name changed) aged 40 years, another oral cancer patient, from Mangaldoi, developed the habit of chewing and smoking tobacco from a very young age due to easy availability and affordability of the products. With folded hands and tears in his eyes, he appealed to the media to carry his message to ban all tobacco products.
Others suffering from oral cancer revealed the mental anxiety and physical trauma accompanying the disease. They were united in their belief that a ban on Gutka and other tobacco products will certainly reduce such pain and suffering in society.
Dr Amal Chandra Kataki, Director of BBCI, in his welcome address, expressed his concerns on the ever increasing cancer burden in Assam and all the North Eastern states. He mentioned that in the year 2011, of all the cancer cases coming to the institute, 63 per cent male patients and 26.5 per cent female patients were suffering from tobacco related cancers.
Mizoram shows the highest cancer burden, and tobacco consumption is very high in this state. Giving emphasis on the need for urgent steps to be taken for tobacco control he mentioned that BBCI is working towards making communities aware about tobacco hazards. A school health programme is working towards tobacco-free schools. He underlined the proper implementation of the tobacco control law and better inter-sectoral co-ordination for effective tobacco control.
Dr. Srabana M Bhagabaty, in-charge of Department of Preventive Oncology, BBCI, presented the �Charter of Demands� which has been planned taking into account the voices of tobacco victims. The charter of demands contains: declaring Assam� Tobacco Free and Smoke Free state�, implementing FSSAI Rules 2.3.4 and Banning Gutkha and all food products containing tobacco, creating an inter-ministerial, high-level committee for tobacco control, and having adequate �Cessation Clinics.�
The four other demands in the demand charter are � dedicating funds for tobacco control, increasing taxes in all tobacco items, putting an end to indirect advertising of tobacco products, stopping sale of tobacco products near educational institutes, and public education through mass media campaigns regarding harmful effects of tobacco. She said the �Charter of Demands� will be jointly submitted by representatives of BBCI and VHA very soon to the Chief Minister and Health Minister of Assam.
In her vote of thanks, Ruchira Neog, Executive Secretary, VHA of Assam appreciated the joint efforts of both Government and Non Government sectors towards tobacco control and stressed the role of media in tobacco control.
It may be mentioned that a number of states in the country have taken serious note of the harmful effects of tobacco consumption on individuals and their families. These states have already banned the production and sale of tobacco, and more states are expected to follow suit.