India, Bangladesh consume 80 per cent smokeless tobacco

The proportion of cases of cancers of the oral cavity, oesophagus, and pancreas that can be attributed to smokeless tobacco use is greater in countries where smokeless tobacco use is highly prevalent.

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India along with Bangladesh make up 80 per cent of smokeless tobacco users in the world, a recent study has claimed. The study, released by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute, also reveal that almost the entire concentration of smokeless tobacco users in the world is in Southeast Asia. Over 300 million people in 70 countries use these tobacco products and 89 per cent of them live in Southeast Asia which also has the highest oral cancel rate in the world.

The proportion of cases of cancers of the oral cavity, oesophagus, and pancreas that can be attributed to smokeless tobacco use is greater in countries where smokeless tobacco use is highly prevalent. A high burden of smokeless tobacco-related cancers is estimated to occur in India because of the large population, high prevalence of smokeless tobacco use, and high incidence of cancers known to be associated with smokeless tobacco use.

The report has noticed that in India, the most common forms of smokeless tobacco used are tobacco with lime (khaini), gutka, and betel quid. Betel quid is typically freshly prepared by the user or a vendor. Pan masala and gutka have become increasingly popular as alternatives to traditional betel quid; they are manufactured on an industrial scale and sold in dried form. Unprocessed tobacco sold in loose form, including betel quid with tobacco, is often not taxed and does not display any package warning labels.

In the age group of 13 to 15, the usage of smokeless tobacco is as high as cigarettes. “Current smokeless tobacco use prevalence is especially high, more than 15 per cent, among the adults in Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Sweden and Sri Lanka, and among the youth in Congo and Namibia,” the report said.

“India has the highest prevalence of oral cancer globally, with 75,000 to 80,000 new cases of oral cancers in a year, as per available evidence there are more than 3,000 chemical ingredients in smokeless tobacco products, out of these, 28 chemical ingredients are proven carcinogens,” said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director of Voluntary Health Association of India.

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