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The smoke over smoking and cancer: even India’s health ministry has no data on tobacco-related deaths

New Delhi – As India’s anti-tobacco activists and tobacco lobby take positions, the union Health Ministry does not even have any data on tobacco-related deaths in the country.  In reply to a Right to Information application (RTA), the Ministry said “No such information (number of estimated deaths in India due to smoking related diseases) is available with this Division.”
The Ministry, which spent an average Rs. 24 crores every year during the past eight years on National Tobacco Control Programme, however, relied on the Report on Tobacco Control in India 2004, and said every year eight to nine lakh estimated deaths occur in the country due to tobacco consumption.
The Ruling BJP’s Member of Parliament Dilip Kumar Mansukhlal Gandhi, who is also Chairman of the Parliamentary Panel of Subordinate Legislation, claimed, there is no India-specific study linking tobacco to cancer, with activists and cancer researchers . The panel, which examined a proposal to mandate 85% of the surface area of the packaging of tobacco products with graphic pictorial warnings, recommended against such a move.  Gandhi found support from his party lawmaker ShyamCharan Gupta, who reportedly told a television news channel, “Why can’t doctors explain, chain smokers don’t get cancer?”
India, as a signatory to WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, is required to mandate tobacco pictorial warnings to cover 85% of the package by April 2015. Last heard, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked his managers in Parliament to suggest, dropping of the parliamentarians, who questioned the tobacco-use as a primary cause of cancer.

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