The death of India's poster girl of anti-tobacco campaign Sunita Tomar on Wednesday has put oral cancer cases in Madhya Pradesh in spotlight, which has seen an alarming rise.
Chairman of Lok Sabha’s Committee of Subordinate Legislations Dilip Kumar Gandhi’s statement that no Indian study suggests that smoking causes cancer notwithstanding doctors and experts believe that there is a direct link between the two.
As per experts, about 12 to 14 cases of oral cancer per one lakh population are registered annualy.
"The unusual phenomenon what I see in Bhopal is cancer among youths. Youths start chewing tobacco as soon as they grow up," said former in-charge of Cancer Registry of Bhopal Dr Neelkamal Kapoor.
Executive director of Madhya Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (MPVHA) Mukesh Sinha said the government and bureaucracy lacked willpower in checking tobacco sale and smoking of cigarette at public places.
If the provisions of The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) could be implemented vigorously, oral cancer cases would come down.
Sinha said as per a recent study, the government spends about Rs 1,373 crore of which 56% is spent as direct medication cost and 44% on other associated cost while treating oral cancer cases. It was also unfortunate that whereas the neighbouring states had high taxes on tobacco, it is low here.
Indore too is facing the same problem. Indore collector Akash Tripathi has launched a campaign Rakshak under which sale of tobacco near schools and smoking at public places are checked besides organising awareness programmes in schools.
"I tell the students even today when we watch the movie Titanic that 2200 people had died in the disaster, while cancer was killing the same number of people almost daily in the country," said Tripathi talking to the Hindustan Times on phone.
Health department principal secretary Praveer Krishn said the government had launched a massive campaign for prevention of oral cancer cases. Madhya Pradesh happened to the first state in the country to enforce a ban on sale of gutkha pouches in the market.
Later, other states followed. Also, Madhya Pradesh was the only state which provided free treatment to cancer patients.