Thiruvananthapuram | Amid widespread shock and anguish over misinformed statements on tobacco’s association with cancer, Keralas medical community rebuffed these and stated that tobacco use indeed causes cancer.
Public pronouncements, mooted by self-contained interests, cannot dispel years of revalidated study and research by the scientific and medical community, they said in a release here today.
The medical community also congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his timely intervention in keeping up to the commitment of the October 15 2014 notification, requiring tobacco companies to devote 85 per cent of all tobacco product packs, including bidis, cigarettes and smokeless to pictorial warnings, it said.
Dr Paul Sebastian, noted surgical oncologist and director of Regional Cancer Centre here said, No less than the World Health Organisation has categorically said that tobacco causes cancer. Independent research conducted by Indian organisations has only strengthened this.
He pointed to the cohort study in Karunagappally taluk in Kerala, started in the late 1980s, to study potential health effects of high background radiation. The study, which covered 65,829 men aged 3084, however showed an elevated lung cancer incidence among bidi smokers, strengthening the association of lung cancer risk with bidi smoking, he said.
Karunagappally is known for high background radiation from thorium-containing monazite sand and the study explored lung and other cancer risks increased by exposure to high level natural radiation and the synergistic effect between radiation and other factors including bidi smoking, he said.
However, our cohort study showed that the relatively high lung cancer incidence in this area is unlikely to be due to high-level natural radiation, Dr Sebastian added.
Eminent oncologist and Founder Director of Regional Cancer Centre M Krishnan Nair said the PM’s assurance that government would go ahead with 85 per cent pictorial warnings was reassuring and sends out a clear message that tobacco is indeed harmful to health.
Dr V P Gangadharan, Head, Medical and Paediatric Oncology, Lakeshore Hospital, Kochi said tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease and strategies like large pictorial warnings can save one million lives each year. He cited a 2014 report of the Health Ministry and WHO on the economic burden of its use,saying tobacco use impairs a person’s health and also badly affects health of the economy.
Economic burden for four specific diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, tuberculosis, and respiratory disease in Kerala for the year 2011 was Rs 545 crore, he said.
As many as 38735 persons, including doctors, tobacco victims, bidi workers’ unions, international and national public health experts and youth across India had urged the Centre to implement 85 per cent pack warnings, it said.