General Secretary of National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE), Shekhar Salkar stated that chief ministers of Assam, Goa, Punjab, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat have pledged to do their best for oral cancer victims, doctors and tobacco control advocates of their states.
"The victims, along with oncologists met their respective chief ministers and urged them to protect the people of their states from the harmful effects of tobacco products by banning gutka, implementing stringent pictorial warnings on chewing tobacco products, putting an end to indirect advertising of chewing tobacco product, stopping sale of chewing tobacco products near educational institutions, increasing taxation on all tobacco products," Salkar stated.
"All the chief ministers assured the victims of their commitment by signing a pledge calling for a ban on gutka and khaini products," Salkar said.
"I will raise my voice against this issue and support all initiatives to rid India of this menace of gutka and khaini and help save millions of Indian lives," reads the pledge.
It is heartening that custodians of health of the state have pledged their support for tobacco control, said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Associate Professor, Head and Neck Department Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai.
"We salute all those CMs who have openly supported and urge those, whom we could not reach and those, who are still to decide about their stand on this issue, to support this initiative to get rid of this menace from India," he added.
VOTV is a national campaign to advocate against the chewing tobacco and other smokeless forms of tobacco. It has been conceptualised and initiated by the victims of oral cancer, who have come together to promote greater awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use.
Numerous doctors and directors of regional cancer centres from across the country are supporting VOTV for the cause.
In March, directors of 17 regional cancer centres in India, including the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), had written letters to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ban gutka and other chewing tobacco products in India.
A recent report by experts of National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW) on the harmful effects of gutka informs that the number of oral cancer cases in India alone stands at 86 per cent of the oral cancer figures across the world.
India has the highest number of oral cancer patients in the world with 75, 000 to 80, 000 new cases of oral cancers a year. Shockingly, chewing tobacco and gutka contribute to 90 per cent of oral cancer cases in the country.
According to last year's Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2010), nearly 1/3 of Indian population is addicted to smokeless tobacco, including a large section of children and youth in India.
Depending upon the geographical areas, different names with different combinations of smokeless tobacco are marketed, such as mawa, khaini, gudakhu, panni etc. All these items essentially have tobacco.
"Despite the Supreme Court order banning gutka in plastic pouches, gutka, pan masala and other smokeless tobacco products are still widely sold in plastic pouches. The enforcement agencies need to take actions against the errants," Salkar said.