Smoking and chewing tobacco cause half of all cancers in men and one in four cancers in women, making tobacco use India's biggest avoidable cause of disease and death, shows Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) data.
"One million (10 lakh) develop cancer in India each year, with the disease projected to rise five-fold — 2.8 times because of tobacco use and 2.2 times due to ageing — by 2025," said Dr G K Rath, chief, Institute-Rotary Cancer Hospital at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.At any given time, 28 lakh people in the country have cancer, making it the fourth largest reason for death after heart disease, respiratory diseases and childhood diarrhoea.
Globally, of the 6 million deaths caused due to tobacco consumption, one million deaths occur in in India.
"Tobacco use is the biggest avoidable cause of disease and death, causing 50% of all cancers in men and 25% in women, and almost 40% of India's tuberculosis deaths," says Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, associate professor of head and neck cancer, Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai.
One in four adults — 25.9% adults — chew tobacco, with two-fifth of the world's oral cancers occurring in India.
"Smokeless tobacco that is chewed, applied to the teeth and gums or sniffed .... causes 2 lakh new oral cancers each year," says Dr Chaturvedi.
One in three adults in India use some form of tobacco — 34.6% adults; 47.9% men and 20.3% women — shows data from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2010.
Even though selling tobacco to minors is illegal, the average age of starting use is 17.8 years, with 25.8% women using tobacco before the age of 15.