Oral cancer survivor from Madhya Pradesh, Sunita Tomar, 30, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring in stronger health warnings on packets of tobacco products in India. Tomar underwent treatment at Parel's Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH).
Tomar wanted to write to the PM after BJP MP from Ahmadnagar Dilip Gandhi, recently made a recommendation to the Union Health Ministry to examine the health effects of tobacco on the Indian population before going ahead with the decision of mandating pictorial warnings covering 85% of the packages.
"When I started consuming tobacco, there was no warning on its ill effects. I did not know that tobacco chewing would lead to cancer and spoil my life. Doctors say though I have been cured, the oral cancer can strike back. After being through the pain, I decided to warn other users through my experience," said Tomar.
Tomar expressed her unhappiness on Gandhi's statement in the letter, which echoes with that of doctors, public health advocates and tobacco control activists from across India.
"Beedi is killing 6 lakh people annually in India. With nearly 85% of the world's beedi tobacco grown in India and 70% of tobacco smoked in the country being in the form of beedis, more Indians have now been found to be dying of beedi smoking than from all other forms of tobacco combined," said Dr P C Gupta, Director, Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health.
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Head and Neck Surgeon at TMH, said, "It is shocking that a senior MP is so poorly informed about the facts pertaining to harmful effects of tobacco. The industry all over the world has admitted that its product is harmful and hence agreed to adopt warnings on packs as part of its manufacturer liability. In fact, tobacco is the only consumer product that has no good use whatsoever."
Nearly five years ago, the Supreme Court had directed the ministry of health to constitute an expert committee to study the harmful effects of tobacco. The committee submitted a damning report, proving beyond doubt that tobacco is indeed very harmful.