The Tata Memorial Hospital here, one of the biggest cancer hospitals in the country, today sought the government’s intervention to counter the “behind-the-scenes campaign by the tobacco lobby to stall anti-tobacco initiatives”. “We seek the government’s intervention to counter a behind-the-scenes campaign by the tobacco lobby to stall anti-tobacco initiatives,” Tata Memorial Hospital’s Director (Academics) Dr Kailash Sharma wrote in a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. He claimed that an Intelligence Bureau (IB) report on anti-tobacco activities in India said restrictions on tobacco use would encourage the consumption of more injurious “toxicants” such as alcohol and narcotics and highlighted the “adverse economic impact of the forced closure of tobacco-related farming/industry on 3.5 crore people”. “I have been following the reports that the intelligence wing of your ministry has labelled ‘tobacco control’ as an ‘unhealthy’ activity. Please investigate if the report has been instigated by the tobacco lobby to derail the efforts of the government,” a statement from the hospital quoted Dr Sharma as saying.
He questioned the use of the phrase, “anti-tobacco lobbying”, in the report, saying that the so-called lobbying saved lives. “The IB report conveniently ignores certain facts. International tobacco industries have also hugely invested in India’s cigarette companies. The Indian tobacco industry has consistently challenged the country’s tobacco control policy in several courts,” Dr Sharma said. “Tobacco is responsible for nearly 50 per cent cancer cases in India and 90 per cent of mouth cancers. Half of the mouth cancer patients die within 12 months of diagnosis. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco addiction is a disease,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, professor and surgeon, Tata Memorial Hospital, in the statement.