DNA | Last Modified - May 31, 2011, 04:47 AM IST
Mumbai: Gory photographs of rotting mouths, hanging gums and infected lungs on cigarette, beedi, cigar and chewing tobacco packets will not help control the consumption of tobacco in India, says former gutkha-addict and oral cancer patient Rahul Bharadwaj.
The government needs to "ban the production and sale of tobacco products completely," for that to happen, he says. Bhardwaj, who is being treated at Mumbai's Tata Memorial Hospital, has written a letter to president Pratibha Patil, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and union health minister Gulab Nabi Azad asking for such a blanket ban.
His letter reads: "I cannot bear the sight of this killer product being sold every 10 metres especially near schools. I get very disturbed when I see others, especially teens chewing tobacco. We all know tobacco kills half its consumers prematurely… Why do we still continue to allow this industry legal status? Is it justified to allow the killing one million Indians (mainly young) every year to earn a few thousand crores?"
Bharadwaj's addiction started innocuously enough. He was in college when it was normal to consume mouth fresheners. He then slowly got addicted to gutkha. Though he managed to get rid of his addiction with the help of his wife and daughter and cannot "bear the sight of tobacco products now," he is in an advanced stage of mouth cancer now.
"In the last four months, everything has changed for me and my family. I went through toxic chemotherapy, had deforming surgery and painful radiotherapy and still do not know if I will be able to celebrate my daughter's next birthday."
Bharadwaj thought of writing his letter after the government issued a notification that tobacco manufacturers must print pictorial warnings on all tobacco products (smoking, smokeless and chewable) from December 1 this year. The move is intended to deter consumers from consuming tobacco products.
Bharadwaj's doctor Pankaj Chaturvedi, associate professor, Tata Memorial Hospital, who has been actively spearheading a campaign against tobacco says: "Most cancer patients come to us when they are in the last stages of cancer. Many of them are young."