Voice of Tobacco Victims Pays Homage to 10 Lakhs Indians on World No Tobacco Day at Rajghat in New Delhi
The name “cancer” spells dread for anyone. The word is considered synonymous with suffering and death. But no one can understand the true meaning of cancer more than us, who have undergone this unfortunate experience and survived. Almost all of us have suffered from mouth cancer due to addiction to smokeless/chewing tobacco like gutka, paan, pan masala, gudaku, mishri and other products. We live under constant threat of re-occurrence of the disease and the sword of death is forever hanging above our heads. Cancer has not only changed our lives, but also affected our families, near and dear ones.
Steadfast in the commitment to fight the tobacco menace, Shri Ashwin Choubey, Member of Parliament and Public Health experts met the cancer patients today on World No Tobacco Day in the Voices of Victims (VoV) programme held at Rajghat in New Delhi. Victims of oral cancer urged the Government of India present to take urgent steps to ensure a ban on sale of all smokeless tobacco products in the country.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India (GATS) 2010, more than one-third (35%) of adults in India use tobacco in some form or the other. Among them 21 percent adults use only smokeless tobacco, 9 percent only smoke and 5 percent smoke as well as use smokeless tobacco. Based on these, the estimated number of tobacco users in India is 274.9 million, with 163.7 million users of only smokeless tobacco, 68.9 million only smokers, and 42.3 million users of both smoking and smokeless tobacco. The prevalence of overall tobacco use among males is 48 percent and that among females is 20 percent. Nearly two in five (38%) adults in rural areas and one in four (25%) adults in urban areas use tobacco in some form. Prevalence of smoking among males is 24 percent whereas the prevalence among females is 3 percent. The extent of use of smokeless tobacco products among males (33%) is higher than among females (18%).
Each day 55,000 children in India start using tobacco and about 5 million children under the age of fifteen are addicted to tobacco.
MPs both from the Opposition and the ruling party coming together to hear the Voices of the Victims clearly indicates that that there are voices in the corridors of power who have the greater health interest of 1 billion Indians at heart and are ready to campaign till the government responds.
The VoTV is a national campaign to advocate against chewing tobacco and other smokeless forms. It has been conceptualized and initiated by oral cancer victims who have come together to promote greater awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use and for appealing for stronger enforcement of tobacco control laws and the complete ban of chewing tobacco in the country.
After suffering from cancer and having survived our unimaginable ordeal, we are distressed to see that despite a central tobacco control law, campaigns on tobacco control by civil society and increase in public awareness, this product is still available in the market. It is shocking that the tobacco industry is targeting youth and kids by selling tobacco products outside schools and colleges, distributing free samples and getting film stars on advertisements for TV and radio.
It is time to put an end to this man-made disaster. It is time for us to share our stories, spread awareness about the hazards of tobacco use and warn fellow countrymen. We hope our suffering prevents others from becoming innocent victims. We hope our voice will find a medium through many of you and awaken the Government from its slumber … so that effective monitoring and enforcement takes place and a message is sent to the perpetrators of the crime – the tobacco industry. Let us work together to build public opinion so that this menace of tobacco ends … before we die.
The victims and their families from across the length and breadth of the country have presented a Charter of their demands to Shri Ashwin Choubey, MP, requesting him to show the commitment to a healthier India by banning all smokeless tobacco products, increasing taxation on all tobacco products and implementing policies and programmes that reflect the demands of the victims of chewing tobacco.