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1 in 3 Mumbai policemen addicted to tobacco, finds study

The researched surveyed 2,388 policemen in the city.

mumbai Updated: May 31, 2018 12:10 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
Sadaguru Pandit
Hindustan Times
mumbai,cigarettes,tobacco
The study, which evaluated tobacco-associated oral lesions in the police personnel, stated that tobacco addiction is a health and professional hazard for the policemen.(Representational photo)

A study by the Government Dental College has revealed that one in three policemen in Mumbai is addicted to tobacco. The study, released to mark World No Tobacco Day on May 31, was recently published in the Advances in Human Biology journal. The researched surveyed 2,388 policemen in the city.

The study, which evaluated tobacco-associated oral lesions in the police personnel, stated that tobacco addiction is a health and professional hazard for the policemen. The overall prevalence of leukoplakia (thickened, white patches inside the mouth which may be cancerous) was found to be 11.12%.

“We found that police personnel often resort to tobacco-associated habits as a stress buster and think that the nicotine rush will settle their nerves, allowing them to better focus on their work. Though non-governmental organisations take note of physical and mental health of the policemen, similar awareness for oral and dental health is still largely missing,” said Dr Akshay Chaturmohta, department of oral medicine and radiology, who headed the study.

Dr Chaturmohta, under the guidance of his department head, Dr Hemant Umarji, interviewed the police personnel over the course of a year. This was accompanied with detailed case history elicitations and medical examinations of the subjects.

While use of tobacco with slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) was the most common habit (34%) noted, it was followed by alcohol consumption (19.3%) with the least common habit being betel nut chewing (3.9%). Other habits like Mishri application – application of tobacco paste on gums (16.1%), mawa (5.2%), pan (6.1) and gutkha (4.8) – were also found.

“Majority of policemen said their dependence on tobacco-based products and alcohol is related to long work hours and the need to be vigil on duty. The live wire situations, high levels of stress, and unhealthy lifestyle may lead to a lot of health complications. There is an immediate need to start programs to reduce the burden of tobacco dependence in policemen,” Dr Chaturmohta added.

Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck cancer surgeon and anti-tobacco crusader, said the prevalence of tobacco dependence is actually over 50% amongst the policemen.

“I had appealed to police welfare department and their top brass, to start life-skill development training for policemen so they start handling the stress better and don’t fall prey to tobacco or alcohol consumption habits. Tobacco consumption leads to health complications and in some cases, policemen have lost jobs for failing to clear medical examinations. So it’s not only a health hazard but a professional hazard as well,” said Dr Chaturvedi.

Eminent psychiatrist Dr Yusuf Matcheswala, who has been working closely with the policemen, said that the habits are picked up in later stages of the duty. “These habits are extremely common in lower ranks of policemen and it’s the top brass that has to take a decisive step to reduce these habits,” he added.

First Published: May 31, 2018 12:09 IST