Tobacco and Cancer – Made for Each Other

June 5, 2012
Health Sciences Campus, Kochi

“The year 2012 has been a great year for tobacco control programs. The government of Kerala has taken a unique decision to ban all panmasala products throughout the state of Kerala,” stated Dr. Dinesh, Professor in the Department of Oncology at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences.

Dr. Dinesh was addressing students on the occasion of World No-Tobacco Day on May 31, 2012 at a function organized by student of the Anti Tobacco Movement at Amrita (ATMA) at the Health Sciences Campus. M. R. Ajithkumar, IPS, Commissioner of Police and Cine Actress Amala Paul were the chief guests at the program.


Speaking on the significance of tobacco control programs, Dr. Dinesh provided many insights to the students and professionals at the function. He noted that enforcing the law to ban all panmasala products would be a daunting task.

“It is sad that it is mainly the youngsters who fall victim to tobacco abuse. If you look at national statistics, Kerala has among the highest number of smokers. While the national average is 33% of the population, in Kerala almost 36% of the people smoke. Another 10% of the people use other tobacco products,” he stated.

Dr. Dinesh

“Tobacco use causes cancers of the lungs and head and neck. Many people think that arecanut used in paans is not a carcinogen but that is not true. WHO has listed arecanut as a carcinogen. Its use can induce submucous fibrosis, which is a highly potent pre-cancerous condition leading to oral cancer. Smoking and chewing tobacco increases the risk of heart diseases and stroke,” he added.

The student members of ATMA regularly visit area schools as part of their outreach programs, educating young students and alerting them to the dangers of tobacco use.

“We are surprised when students come up to us, saying that they were using panmasala all the time. They seemed to become really worried after seeing all the pictures we show of people who suffer from the ill-effects of tobacco use.”


ATMA has initiated tobacco control programs, and Dr. Dinesh explained the significance of the five ‘a’s of the program.

“First, ask about one’s tobacco use habits. Second, advice about the benefits of quitting tobacco. Third, assess the person’s willingness to quit the habit. Next, assist through tobacco cessation clinics. The last, arrange follow-ups.”

The doctor underlined that the use of tobacco together with alcohol greatly increases the risk of cancer.


“As health professionals, it is our duty to educate the public, and especially school children, to make them aware of the risks of drinking, smoking and the menace of using panmasala and ghutka,” he summed up.


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