Author: Tausif Alam

The rise of tobacco consumption among children and young adults between 10 to 17 years has become a major cause of concern in the city. In the wake of it, cases of oral cancer among children are also on rise, say experts.

According to the data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO), prevalence of smoking among children in India, between the age group of 13-15 years, is 5.8 per cent and 2.4 per cent in male and female respectively. The consumption of tobacco in different forms by children varies between 16.2 per cent and 7.2 per cent in male and female respectively.

“Children between the age group of 10-17 years have been consuming tobacco mostly in the form mawa, pan masala and gutkha. The major cause of addiction among children is cheap availability of tobacco products. Though our law restricts selling of tobacco products to minors, the rule is not observed stringently, and minors have easy access to these products,” said Kalyan Gangwal, founder member of the Sarva Jeev Mangal Pratishthan. He added that prevalence of tobacco consumption is mostly seen among slum children.

The uses of mawa, pan masala and gutkha can cause oral submucous fibrosis, a pre-cancerous lesion which can lead to cancer. The symptoms are the difficulty in opening mouth and inability to tolerate hot, spicy food. Now, a large number of cases of oral submucous fibrosis have been found among youngsters who consume tobacco, said Gangwal.

“The children mostly inherit the habit from their parents. Among slum dwellers, consumption of tobacco by children is not usually considered a bad habit as the adults themselves are unaware of concomitant effects of tobacco,” said Prasad Oak, counselor at the Anandvan Bahuddeshiya Sanstha.

He added that children from affluent and middle class families are also exposed to tobacco, but mostly in the form of cigarettes, which causes respiratory disease as well as lung and heart diseases. According to WHO, over 40 per cent children have at least one parent who smokes.

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