Regulate smokeless tobacco products, emphasises study

The objective of this study was to understand the proportion of toxic and cancer causing (carcinogenic) constituents in smokeless tobacco products and then analyse how they vary in different products. This information is necessary to provide insights for the development of effective tobacco control policies

Regulate smokeless tobacco products, emphasises study
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The consumption of smokeless tobacco products such as gutkha, mawa and pan masala has been identified as a cause of oral, pancreatic, and esophageal cancer in various studies. In India, the association of smokeless tobacco use with oral cancer is particularly striking.

Now a study has highlighted the total absence of regulatory standards for maximum allowable chemical constituents in smokeless tobacco products. These constituents make these products hazardous for consumers. The study conducted by Healis – Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health, Navi Mumbai and University of Minnesota, USA has found that the degree of nicotine in smokeless tobacco products varies highly in each product.

“The findings of the study show that it is possible for manufacturers to make smokeless tobacco products less hazardous. Despite this, the industry continues to market products which can lead to a high risk cancer and are highly addictive,” said Dr P. C. Gupta, Director, Healis – Sekhsaria Institute. He also stressed that these finding are particularly important for India as we are a home to over 80 per cent of all smokeless tobacco users worldwide which is a major concern.

The objective of this study was to understand the proportion of toxic and cancer causing (carcinogenic) constituents in smokeless tobacco products and then analyse how they vary in different products. This information is necessary to provide insights for the development of effective tobacco control policies.

“We have a huge spectrum of smokeless tobacco products in the market but we don’t have any idea about the degree of toxicity they contain. There is a huge difference between levels of carcinogenic substances in these products. To tackle the menace of increasing number of cancer patients, it is important to know what they are consuming,” said Dr P. C. Gupta. For the purpose of the study smokeless tobacco products were collected from Mumbai and were tested in the laboratories at the University of Minnesota, USA.

Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Professor and Surgeon, Tata Memorial Hospital, underlined the spread of oral cancer in India which is among the highest in the world. “Given this situation, it is important to have a systematic way to supervise tobacco products. It will lead us to have a better understanding of the risks associated with the use of specific tobacco products. With this knowledge we can combat oral cancer,” he said.