New Delhi, December 11
In radical recommendations on the back of evidence that India’s cancer burden would grow to over 15 lakh cases by 2025, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health has asked the government to abolish all designated smoking areas in restaurants, airports and hotels to discourage the use of tobacco, a leading risk factor for the disease in India.
Cases estimated to be higher in north
- According to a recent estimate, the global number of cases will increase from 19.3 mn to 28.4 mn by 2040
- In India, the burden of cancer was projected to result in a loss of 26.7 million disability adjusted life years (years of productive life lost) in 2021 and 29.8 million in 2025
- The cases are estimated to be higher in the north and north-eastern region, and more among men than women
- More than 40% of the total cases are contributed by cancers of lung (10.6%), breast (10.5%), oesophagus (5.8%), mouth (5.7%), stomach (5.2%), liver (4.6%) and cervix uteri (4.3%)
In its report “Cancer care plan and management: Prevention, diagnoses, research and affordability of cancer treatment”, presented to Parliament this week, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health further urged the government to substantially raise tobacco taxes and enact a national-level gutkha ban.
Noting that over 80 per cent tobacco consumption in the country was in the form of chewing tobacco with or without areca nut, the committee said these products were being aggressively marketed as mouth fresheners.
“We recommend the government to take measures to ban gutkha and flavoured chewing tobacco, flavored areca (pan masala) and prohibit direct and indirect advertisements of pan masala. We are of the firm view that there is an urgent need to disincentivise the consumption of tobacco and alcohol,” the panel said.
The committee also noted that India had one of the lowest prices for tobacco products in the world and recommended the government to raise taxes on tobacco and use additional revenues for cancer prevention and awareness.
In a first, the panel said considering oral cancer was the highest contributor to the total cancer cases in India, the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, must be enacted more strongly.
Noting that the National Health Policy, 2017, had set out to achieve a relative reduction in the prevalence of current tobacco use by 30 per cent in 2025, the committee said, “We recommend the government to abolish designated smoking areas in airports, hotels and restaurants and encourage a smoke-free policy in organisations.”
The panel also sought a ban on single-stick sales of cigarettes and stringent penalties on offenders.
The recommendations come at a time when the National Cancer Registry Programme estimates the number of cancer cases in India to rise from 13,92,179 in 2020 to 15,69,793 in 2025 — a rise of 12.8 per cent.
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