Thiruvananthapuram: Balan, 53, a casual labourer has been suffering from oral cancer for the past seven years and had to sell his house to pay for treatment. On World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) Saturday, he pleaded all users to quit using tobacco products.
"I have lost my house as I had to raise money for my treatment," said the father of three daughters.
"The only way to contain this menace is to increase the price of tobacco products," said a frail looking Balan, who was accompanied by his wife, Ammini, at a meeting organised by WNTD Kerala State Organising Committee.
Ammini said her husband used to spend half of his daily earnings in buying beedis and other tobacco products. "This left me with little money to provide for our children's education," she said.
"If only tobacco products was prized high, maybe it would have deterred him from its use," said Ammini, who is also a breast cancer patient.
Inaugurating the event, Jaganmohan. A. Tharakan, director, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), said heavy taxation coordinated with other tobacco control strategies are needed to bring down tobacco use.
A presentation at the meeting by Babu Mathew of Regional Cancer Association brought out figures of tobacco-related health costs.
"The total direct and indirect medical costs associated with tobacco use in India is $1.7 billion. The foreign exchange earnings from tobacco is Rs.5,400 crore and central excise revenue is Rs.2,040 crore," said Mathew.
K.R. Thankappan, a senior academic, highlighted the need for pressing for both tobacco cessation and prevention.
"Most of the current measures are prevention oriented, cessation is less focused. There are only 18 tobacco cessation clinics in India," he said.
A.S. Pradeep Kumar, nodal officer of Tobacco Control in Kerala, spoke about the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2003 (FCTC) that has been ratified by 178 of 192 member countries.
The WHO proposed a step-by-step framework intending at containing tobacco use by 2040.