Pune: For two decades of his life, 52-year-old Suryakant Deshmukh (name changed on request) smoked over Rs 10,000 per month in cigarettes, alcohol and smokeless tobacco products. If keeping his family deprived of a sizeable part of his income wasn’t enough, Deshmukh who was diagnosed with oral cancer two years ago and spent Rs 12 lakh on treatment. He is just an example of the huge financial burden that tobacco and its associated illnesses like cancer has put on lakhs of families.
While the sale of tobacco is being permitted for the revenue it generates, on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, city doctors demand that the government increase taxes. Dr Bhushan Zade, consultant radiation oncologist at Ruby Hall, said, “The cost of treatment increases depending on the intensity of the disease. Tobacco causes cancers of oral cavity, lungs, nasal cavity, gut and pancreas. Cost of treatment for each type of cancer varies from Rs 15,000 to several lakhs.” Besides, some patients of oral cancer may require plastic surgery or jaw restructuring.
Ask oncologists and they say that monetary loss isn’t the only thing. Most tobacco addicts require psychological rehabilitation.
Dr Minish Jain, consultant medical oncologist, said, “A chain smoker smokes 15 cigarettes a day and spends about Rs 3,600 a month on cigarettes and an average smoker smokes five cigarettes a day and spends an average of Rs 1,500 a month.” A study conducted by Dr Dhananjay Kelkar, oncologist at Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital tested 6,577 students from 21 schools and colleges across Pune. “Four out of ten youngsters in the age group of 14 to 16 and 31% between 16 and 18 years of age consumed tobacco. Out of the consumers, 70% were aware of the ill effects of tobacco consumption,” said Kelkar