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Celebrities endorsing tobacco brands is a serious issue

The latest controversy around a popular paan masala brand and it being endorsed by leading Bollywood heroes of our country has created quiet a backlash. Social media has been abuzz with all sorts of declarations about the same. The health hazards associated with smoking is pretty much known by everyone and the awareness level of the same is also high but unfortunately the same cannot be said about other tobacco products freely available in the market.

India is the first country to prohibit the sale, storage and manufacturing of smokeless tobacco products like gutkha across all states and yet India ranks as the second largest consumer and producer of tobacco in the world. A variety of tobacco products are freely available at very low prices in the country.

India looses an approximately 1.35 million citizens per year to deaths caused by tobacco related illnesses. Tobacco use is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cancer, lung disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The most prevalent form of tobacco use in India is smokeless tobacco and commonly used products are khaini, gutkha, betel quid with tobacco and zarda. Smoking forms of tobacco used are bidi, cigarette and hookah.

The current public outrage currently is over gutkha,a generic name for a product that contains tobacco, areca nut, and several other substances in powdered or granulated form and sold in small aluminium foil sachets at every roadside stall. The only known use of this product is that it is put in the mouth and then chewed and sucked. Later, it is generally spat out, or sometimes swallowed.

Promoted as a mouth freshener, this mixture is a combination of 4,000 chemicals of which at least 40 are carcinogenic compounds.

The use of gutkha has grown in popularity due to unsupported perception of safety, indoor smoking bans, ability to conceal use, increased social acceptance, and physiological effects, such as relaxation, increased concentration, heightened alertness, and diminished hunger.

Long term consumption of gutkha is more harmful than any other form of tobacco. This is because when a person chews gutkha, the mixture directly enters the system through the oral cavity.

It has serious repercussions to the overall health of an individual.

People can develop cancers of mouth, throat, lung and oesophagus; heart disease and related ailments. While most youngsters get easily addicted to it, women are in the habit of chewing tobacco or even inhaling snuff, which is even more harmful. While consumption of gutkha may lead to oral cancer but it has adverse effect on the lungs and its functioning over a period of time. Along with possibility of Lung Cancer people commonly develop non-cancerous lung and respiratory conditions like bronchial asthma, hypertension, heart disease and also strokes. Cough, sputum, shortness of breath, dysphagia, snoring, and apnea-hypopnea has been found to be significantly high in smokeless tobacco users.

Research also shows that continuous consumption over a period of time decreases antioxidant defences resulting in long-term inflammation in the liver and lungs.It also produces organ system toxicity and alters critical circulating hormones and enzyme levels.

It slowly eats up your system from inside without leaving any possibility of recovery.

Tobacco consumers are aware about the dire consequences but their addiction takes over their rationality.Tobacco consumption is a vice in any form and has irreversible health consequences. It is a graver situation when the overall society is also accepting of such social evils.

In India actors are worshipped and put on a high pedestal. They need to have a moral compass and social consciousness to gauge which products to be associated with. But again, like every cigarette box comes with a health warning;it is upto the consumer to make the right choice for himself/herself.