Tobacco and cancer

15 Oct 2020


THIS refers to your editorial ‘Cancer on the rise’ (Oct 5) about the alarming rise in cancer cases in Pakistan. Tobacco use represents the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the country. In addition, it causes an array of diseases deleterious to every organ of the body. Most people are aware that smoking is linked with lung cancer, and use tobacco in the form of paan, naswar, gutka etc. This is generally considered a safer alternative to smoking and has unfortunately gained societal acceptance.

While smokeless tobacco is consumed by more than 350 million individuals worldwide, more than 80 per cent of its use is concentrated in South Asia. In Pakistan, where smokeless tobacco is culturally ingrained. It remains cheap, widely available and poorly regulated. Smokeless tobacco products contain stimulants and flavourings that enhance its flavour and addictiveness.

Owing to their composition, products made by smokeless tobacco are highly addictive and toxigenic. Their continued use results in oral and oropharyngeal, head and neck cancers, which have alarmingly high rates in our country.

Moreover, smokeless tobacco use is also linked to the development of ischemic heart disease and strokes as well as stillbirth and low birth weight.

Our electronic media must educate the public on the harmful effects of smoking and smokeless tobacco use.

Prof Javaid Khan

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2020