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Top health official dismisses BJP MPs’ claims on smoking

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New Delhi: Director General of Health Services Jagdish Prasad today rejected the suggestions made by some parliamentarians including BJP MPs that there was no scientific evidence linking smoking to cancer, saying research has indeed been done. “Research has been done and it’s a known fact that tobacco causes cancer. There is no doubt about it. Take for example the case of Sunita (Tomar),” Prasad told reporters on the sidelines of an event.

Sunita, the face of India’s fight against tobacco, recently succumbed to relapse of throat cancer. Prasad added that contrary to the assertions of the MPs, the harmful effects from tobacco is on the rise in the country also because of the fact that “ladies, who did not used to smoke earlier, have now taken up smoking”. “There were few lung cancer cases in the past but it has increased. Cigarettes produce free radicals which after a stage harm our body,” he said.

The Centre had stayed the decision to increase the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products, which was to come into effect from April 1, after a parliamentary panel, looking into the guidelines for sale of tobacco, said that it needs more time to deliberate on the issue. Comments of some of the members of the panel including BJP MPs Shyam Charan Gupta, a beedi baron, and Dilip Gandhi, that there was no Indian scientific evidence that links smoking with cancer had triggered outrage.


Commenting on the National Air Quality Index launched by the Centre, Prasad said the Health Ministry was preparing guidelines to issue advisory during occasions such as Diwali when pollutions is at its peak for which “data is available”. Prasad was speaking on the occasion of an event on World Health Day, organised by doctor-to-patient communication platform ‘Lybrate’ on the growing trend of self-medication.

According to study conducted by it, involving 20,000 respondents, 52 per cent Indians indulge in self-medication, thus exposing themselves to severe health risk. “The results were disturbing. Reasons for this growing trend include time constraint, or the want of doing away with doctors fees or the more recent dependency on the Internet,” Lybrate CEO Saurabh Arora said.