Tobacco causes 90 percent of lung and oral cancers. The list of tobacco related diseases is long and includes heart and blood vessel diseases, bronchitis, asthma, impotence, birth defects and growth retardation in babies, etc.
Tobacco is used in our country in many forms such as: Smoking: Cigarette, beedi, chillum, hooka, cigars, chutta and revers chutta Smokeless tobacco: Pan, gutka, khaini, pan masala, snuff, mishri, mawa, toothpaste with tobacco Unfortunately, the trend of tobacco abuse is increasing in our country. Nearly one third of the population above 15 years of age is using some form of tobacco in India. Many families in our country earn their livelihood by making beedis and are helped by the children of the family as well. A significant proportion of these get addicted to using tobacco in some form. Even those who do not actively use it end up inhaling the tobacco flakes in the process of making beedis.

TOBACCO CAUSES CANCER Most of us are aware that smoking causes lung cancer and chewing tobacco causes oral cancer. In addition, they lead to bad breath, stained teeth, poor healing of wounds and early tiredness. All these diseases can also affect the ‘innocent bystanders’ — the loved ones around you who inhale the ‘second hand’ smoke. What are the symptoms of lung cancer? Unfortunately, the symptoms of lung cancer don’t develop unless it has grown to become a sizeable mass when the cure rates drop further down. Get yourself checked if you have any of these:

• Cough for more than three weeks

• Blood stained sputum

• Difficulty in breathing / chest discomfort / wheezing

• Change in voice (typically hoarseness) for > 3 weeks

• Unexplained weight loss / tiredness What are the symptoms of oral cancer and how to detect it early? Oral cancer or its precursors are easy to detect at an early stage if one is vigilant enough. White or reddish patches inside the lining of mouth or tongue are considered as precursors of cancer, latter being more sinister. Non-healing ulcers that do not heal for more than three weeks of treatment should be investigated further. Sometimes, an underlying or adjacent cancer presents as a loose tooth. It is imperative to rule out cancer in patients with loose tooth that otherwise look healthy. Lump in the neck may be an indicator of some disease inside oral cavity or throat, cancer being one of the important diseases. A regular, monthly self-examination of oral cavity and neck can help in early detection. Annual check up with cancer experts is also recommended. Catch them young and early! “This young adult market, the 14 to 24 age group… represent(s) tomorrow’s cigarette business.” – R.J. Reynolds (1974). The owner of the second largest tobacco company in the U.S.A. made this unfortunate comment. But, our aim is to catch the cancer young and early. Even bigger aim is to prevent it by mass campaigns to stop use of tobacco products. The need of the hour is to educate our younger generation about the ill-effects and prevent them from getting addicted. How to quit You can eat five portions of fruit or vegetables a day and exercise regularly – but healthy behaviour means little if you continue to smoke. Stopping smoking / using tobacco is the single biggest thing you can do to improve your health.

These steps may serve as a guide:

• Decide on a date and quit completely; simply reducing would just bounce back.

• Make a list of reasons why you want to quit and keep it with you.

• Make it known to family and friends to garner strength and support.

• Keep a record of when, how much and why you smoke or use tobacco.

• Seek medical help for nicotine cravings; do not self-medicate.

• Lastly, be prepared for relapse. Four out of five times the quitting trial fails! Nonetheless, keep trying. Some startling facts Every day 3,000 children smoke their first cigarette and a third of them will die prematurely due to smoking. More than 90 percent of adult smokers started when they were teens. Nearly 30 percent of Indians above 15 years of age use tobacco in some form. Every eight second, a human life is lost to tobacco use somewhere in the world. That translates to approximately five million deaths annually. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Beedis deliver twice the amount of tar and seven times the amount of nicotine of regular cigarettes and thus are far more addictive. The number of people under the age of 70 who die from smoking-related diseases exceeds the total figure for deaths caused by breast cancer, AIDS, traffic accidents and drug addiction. Each cigarette shortens a smoker’s life by around 11 minutes.