Maharashtra among top tobacco consumers in India

June 15th, 2012 - 8:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, June 15 (IANS) Despite a prohibition on smoking in public and a proposed ban on consuming gutka, Maharashtra remains one of the largest consumers of tobacco in any form in the country, a Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) factsheet for the state revealed here Friday.

The GATS report indicates that despite a high level of awareness about the hazards of tobacco use among adults, current prevalence of tobacco use is still high with 31.4 percent adults using it.

In a special message for the GATS report release, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan expressed alarm at the figures of tobacco products consumption in the state.

“The Maharashtra government is committed to take strict action against violators of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) and looking forward to a ‘tobacco-free state’ with the proposed ban on gutka,” Chavan assured.

Healis Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health director P.C. Gupta said that in view of the seriousness of the tobacco problem, the state government’s move to ban gutka was “most welcome,” after a similar ban implemented in Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.

Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital’s (TMCH) head of Preventive Oncology Surendra Shastri said tobacco companies have been manipulating public opinion about the harm caused by tobacco consumption through intense lobbying and misleading advertisements.

“The country has made some tough laws to protect its citizens from the tobacco epidemic - the implementing agencies should now enforce them strictly without being swayed by any kind of pressure. I also appeal to senior legal luminaries to abstain from appearing in courts on behalf of the killer tobacco companies,” Shastri urged.

TMCH Director Rajendra Badwe said tobacco consumption is responsible for over 40 percent of cancer deaths in the country.

“The GATS data would be very useful to estimate the exact extent and nature of the problem and plan important preventive measures. Imagine the useful lives and money that the country could save by just strictly implementing all provisions of COTPA 2003,” Badwe added.

Experts at the meeting said that tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of premature disease and death in the world and kills up to half of those who use it. In the 20th century, the tobacco epidemic killed 100 million people worldwide, and during the 21st century, it is estimated to kill one billion people.

Containing this epidemic is one of the most important public health priorities of our time, they urged.

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