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70 million women use smokeless tobacco to suppress hunger: Home Ministry report

Terming cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx as an important health problem in India, the report said that nearly 85,000 new cases among men and 34,000 among women are reported each year with at least 90 per cent of them caused by tobacco use in some form.

A new report released by the health ministry in collaboration with WHO has revealed some disturbing data which says that around 70 million women in India aged 15 years and above consume smokeless tobacco (SLT) to suppress hunger while performing laborious tasks.

The reports says, “Easy availability and low cost of SLT are key factors promoting SLT use by women.One factor influencing SLT use among disadvantaged women is the desire to suppress hunger while performing difficult and laborious tasks.”

Terming cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx as an important health problem in India, the report said that nearly 85,000 new cases among men and 34,000 among women are reported each year with at least 90 per cent of them caused by tobacco use in some form.

The report said, “The relative risk of oral cancer among women SLT users is 8 times higher than that for men, and the relative risk of cardiovascular disease among women SLT users is 2-4 times higher than in men.”

The report cites the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) conducted in India in 2009-2010 among those 15 years or over, which had found that SLT was the most common form of tobacco used as the prevalence of SLT use was 26 per cent.

Using SLT during pregnancy results in 70 per cent higher risk of anaemia in pregnant women, 2-3 times higher rate of low birth weight and 2-3 times higher rate of stillbirth.

The SLT industry in India has grown exponentially mostly in the unorganised sector, the report said and added that about 14 per cent of land under tobacco cultivation is used for growing SLT varieties and one-fifth of total tobacco production is used for SLT.

The report was released at Seventh Session of the Conference of Parties (COP7) to World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which India is hosting for the first time.

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