Facts, Not Fiction

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A grim scenario has been projected for Kashmir in relation to the incidence of tobacco-related cancers in the coming decade, with activists fearing that the rate could be “alarming” by 2025. A top official of the Voluntary Health Organisation of India (Kashmir chapter) has gone to the extent of suggesting that the deadly disease could be found raging in the valley particularly among the age group of 25 to 30 within 12 years if the use of tobacco and tobacco products (including smoking) is not banned forthwith. The official is bound to have sound reason for his words, as the organisation has been involved in the field for a substantial period. In other words, Kashmir is heading for a public health disaster. The need of the hour is for the medical fraternity in Kashmir to come out with facts and figures about the prevailing tobacco-related cancers, and the other strands about social behaviour which come to the fore with such data. It is surprising that medical experts here who go to ridiculous lengths such as attempting to draft ulama in cancer-preventing drives have been so remiss in publishing hard data on smoking-related cancers, particularly when the valley ranks very high in tobacco consumption.  

Jammu and Kashmir has emerged second in North India in tobacco and tobacco product use, and highest in the incidence of smoking (and passive smoking in work places). A Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) puts tobacco use in J and K at 26.6 per cent, four points below Uttarakhand and slightly above Delhi which ranks third in the study. The full import of the data will sink in only after the state’s medical statistics about smoking-related disorders become available. Health authorities and experts off-and-on give the public an idea of the incidence of various types of cancers in Kashmir, but hard data on smoking-related cases, particularly fatalities, does not often come into the public ken. The issue assumes urgency in view of the fact that non-smoking tobacco products figure a little lower in the state than smoking. The severely detrimental – to use a mild expression – impact of smoking on health deserves to be quantified in unequivocal numbers by health experts and authorities in Jammu and Kashmir, since the state has now been confirmed to be among the highest users in the country.

It should be instructive that some experts at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) had last year sought to draft the services of the clergy in influencing the public to bring about life-style changes as one strand of anti-cancer drives. Farfetched as this obviously is, given that the clergy, with its self-serving philosophy, has failed even to make the slightest dent in the most glaring of social evils, the huge array of experts at the SKIMS would have done infinitely better by bringing out some hard data about smoking-related cancers and mortality in Kashmir. 

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