Odisha tops list of tobacco chewers: Survey

Odisha has the highest percentage of tobacco chewers among nine surveyed states, according to the latest annual health survey (AHS).

Odisha with 38 per cent tobacco chewers in the above-15 age group is ahead of Assam (36.6%), Chhattisgarh (32.5%), Jharkhand (24.1%), Bihar (22.5%), Uttar Pradesh (21%), Madhya Pradesh (18.9%), Uttarakhand (8.8%) and Rajasthan (6.9%), the AHS released by the office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner earlier this week said.

Among the districts, the number of smokeless-tobacco users is highest in Malkangiri where 58.4 per cent consume gutkha, khaini or paan masala, followed by Mayurbhanj (51.4%). Tobacco chewing population is more than 40 per cent in Balangir, Balasore, Bargarh, Bhadrak, Dhenkanal, Jajpur, Keonjhar, Koraput, Nabarangpur and Sambalpur districts. Gajapati with 13 per cent tobacco chewers is the only district where less then 20 per cent people consume smokeless-tobacco.

While 40.6 per cent of state’s rural population consume edible tobacco, their population in urban areas is 25.6 per cent. Among males, 45.8 per cent use smokeless tobacco while 30.3 per cent females chew tobacco.

Doctors and anti-tobacco activists said it was high time that Odisha adopted the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations 2011 that prohibits manufacture and sale of chewing tobacco products. Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Bihar have already banned gutkha by implementing the regulation. “Successive surveys are pointing out highest concentration of tobacco users in the state, which also establishes the reason why oral cancer is highly prevalent here. It is time Odisha should implement the regulation,” said Dr Ghanashyam Biswas, an oncologist in Bhubaneswar.

Anti-tobacco activists said they were trying to persuade the government to ban gutkha products. “We have urged the government to adopt the central regulation during multiple rounds of discussion and are hopeful that the government will do so at the earliest,” said Itishree Kanungo, an anti-tobacco activist.

The Food Safety and Standardization Authority of India (FSSAI), a statutory body under the Union health ministry to handle food related issues, notified the new regulations on August 1, 2011. Under rule 2.3.4 of the regulation “food product will not contain any substance which may be injurious to health: Tobacco and nicotine shall not be used as ingredients in any food products”.

Director of public health Dr Upendra Kumar Sahoo said, “The habit of chewing tobacco by people of Odisha has been there for a long time. However, the government has continued creating public awareness against the practice.”

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