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Living to tell the tale: Vijay Tiwari

Vijay Tiwari, 52, who was stung by Big 'C', is one of the gutka manufacturers who now advocates ban on tobacco products across the country. Tiwari was present at the 3rd National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTOH) organised by Salaam Bombay Foundation in collaboration with World Health Organisation, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Action Council against Tobacco, Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health and Tata Memorial Hospital.

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Living to tell the tale: Vijay Tiwari
Vijay Tiwari
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At 48, my life came to a standstill when medical test reports revealed that I had oral cancer. We ran a successful tobacco business and never in my life had I dreamt that I would be afflicted by cancer. My great grand parents had started the gutka business. We sold scented supari and gutka. I started chewing gutka at 12 during the tasting sessions in our factory. It was just for fun and as part of my work. I didn’t know when it became a habit and when cancer got into my system.

Ten years back, I started getting blisters in my mouth. When local doctors couldn't treat it, I was referred to Tata Hospital where they diagnosed it, and my worst fears came true. In 2011, I underwent surgery for oral cancer. After six chemotherapy and 36 radiation sessions, I was declared free of cancer. I decided to stop the business of gutka the day I had been diagnosed with oral cancer.

I then realised how I was risking people's life for financial gains. The greed for money had devastated my life too. I shut the money-making business and now produce ittar.

In gutka, getting business was easy. There was huge demand for the product. Whatever was produced in the factory was sold. Now I struggle to market what I produce. But I don’t regret it because I have personally gone through the pain, and I now want the government to stringently implement the ban on tobacco across the country. I am not going to be a part of an industry that puts people's health at risk.

I have been there and done that, and I know how the tobacco industry functions.

Manufacturers say that the scented suparis and gutka have kesar, elaichi and gulab. But it's a farce. These components are very costly and hence manufacturers use chemicals instead to make profit. These chemicals aggravate the risk of cancer. Tobacco is the foremost preventable cause of death and disease in the world today, killing half the people who use it. If the current trend continues, by 2030 tobacco will kill more than eight million people worldwide each year. I urge all stakeholders and manufacturers to take me as an example. I was lucky, but all are not. I have lived to tell my tale and got the opportunity to rectify my mistake.

—As told to Somita Pal

 

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