Tobacco related cancers remain a major woe for the Indian health sector. Nearly 932, 000 lose their lives due to this menace every year. WHO has already declared tobacco as “the single most preventable cause of cancer in the world”. Not only tobacco is bad for our personal health but it also causes loss of productivity (nearly 18,500 crores annually) which surpasses the revenue and employment government generates through the tobacco industry.

In India, every 3rd case of cancer is that of one caused due to regular use of tobacco. Tobacco use has been associated with a large number of health issues like tuberculosis, homicide, suicide, heart ailments, strokes, bronchitis, and delay in healing of wounds, infertility and peptic ulcer, amongst other diseases.

Smoking is unattractive

Smoking and chewing tobacco leads to bad breath and yellow stains on our teeth and fingernails. The toxic chemicals present in it can impair blood circulation to your skin. This makes the skin dry causing wrinkles that make you look older than you are now.

Tobacco is Unhealthy

Tobacco contains 400 different types of chemicals out of which 200 are poisonous in nature and 69 out of them are certified as carcinogens. Every cigarette you smoke is designed in a way that can damage and affect every organ in your body. Toxic gases damage your cilia present in the nose walls and throat whereas Tar coats your lungs with solid particles like hoot in a chimney. Most commonly found chemicals in your cigarette are:

Ammonia Primarily used in toilet cleaners.
Cyanide Used mainly as rat poison.
Formaldehyde Used in laboratories to preserve the specimen of dead animals.
Nicotine The drug that causes addiction

Demographic distribution of Tobacco users in India

  • In India, the six north-eastern states of Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Assam rank highest in tobacco consumption. According to the data from the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, 70.7% of men consume tobacco in one form or the other.

  • Among all the north-eastern states, Mizoram stands first as 80.4% men and 59.2% women aged 15 to 49 years consume tobacco. If we compare among men using tobacco, the numbers are 72.2% for Meghalaya, 70.6% for Manipur, 69.4% for Nagaland, 67.8% for Tripura and 63.9% for Assam. While these were the numbers for the male users of tobacco, females average at 37.7% which is way more than the national average of 6.8%.

  • As a result the north-eastern states also register a high cancer rate because of tobacco use which is 112 men and 60 women out of 1000 deaths due to cancer whereas the national average sits at 47 for men and 44 for women as per the 2012 Million Death Study published in The Lancet.

  • Other than cancer, lung diseases and cardiovascular diseases tobacco use is one of the main reasons behind a number of chronic diseases. Because of tobacco use millions of Indians are exposed to the vulnerability of these diseases.

  • Figures show that nearly 29.3% female and 30.6% male tobacco users have tried to get rid of their tobacco habit in last 12 months. Despite registering a decline in number of tobacco users by 12.5% in men and 4% in women, India is still the second largest producer and consumer of tobacco products, as per National Tobacco Control Program.

  • According to the study conducted by ministry of health and family welfare, the total money spent by the government on dealing with diseases caused due to tobacco use stands at Rs. 1.05 lakh crore which is 1.16% of the GDP and 12% more than the combined funds used by central and state governments on healthcare in 2011.

  • Punjab and Haryana register the lowest users of tobacco among men at 19.2% and 14.4% respectively. Women in the age-group 15-49 account to less than 1% in use of tobacco in Himachal Pradesh, Daman & Diu, Kerala, Chandigarh and Puducherry.

  • Men and women in Indian villages use more tobacco than the respective genders in urban areas. The number of woman tobacco users in villages is 8.1% as compared to 4.4% in urban areas. For men, the figure is 48% in villages and 38.9% in cities.

  • When it comes to get rid of tobacco use, urban women users (33%) make more efforts in comparison to women users in villages (28.2%). But the data is completely opposite for men. More male users in villages (31.2%) try to get themselves off tobacco use as compared to users in cities (29.6%).
Why is Tobacco Dangerous?
There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke and out of them at least 70 are known to be carcinogenic. The various cancer causing chemicals in a cigarette smoke are:
  • Acetone- Solvent

  • Naphtylamine*

  • Methanol- used as rocket fuel

  • Pyrene*

  • Naphtalene*

  • Nicotine- used as herbicide and insecticide

  • Cadmium- use in batteries

  • Carbon Monoxide- found in exhaust fumes

  • Vinyl Chloride- used in plastic materials

  • Cyanhydric acid- was used in the gas chambers

  • Ammoniac- detergent

  • Urethane*

  • Toluene- industrial solvent

  • Arsenic- lethal poison

  • Dibenzacridine*
  • Polonium 210- a radioactive element

  • DDT- insecticide

*Known Carcinogenic Substances
Harmful effects of Tobacco
Cancers Chronic Diseases
  • Stroke
  • Blindness
  • Gum Infection
  • Heart disease
  • Pneumonia, Chronic lung disease & Asthma
  • Reduced fertility
  • Hip fracture
Tobacco is responsible for almost 50% of cancer cases and 90% in case of mouth cancers in India. According to some of the best oncologist in Kolkata half of the patients who get diagnosed with cancer due to tobacco use die within 12 months of diagnosis. Keeping the above data in context, we can conclude that tobacco not only kills people but also drags the country’s progress behind.