A grim scenario has been projected for Kashmir with regard to the incidence of tobacco-related cancers in the coming decade, with activists fearing that the rate could be “alarming” by 2025. A non-government organisation of good standing has gone to the extent of suggesting that the deadly disease could be found raging in the valley, particularly among the age group of 25 to 30, within 10 years if the use of tobacco and tobacco products (including smoking) were not banned forthwith.
In a study not long ago, Jammu and Kashmir had emerged second in North India on tobacco and tobacco product use, and highest in the incidence of smoking (and passive smoking in work places). The survey had put tobacco use in J and K at 26.6 per cent, four points below Uttarakhand and slightly above Delhi which ranks third in the study. The full import of the data will sink in only after the state’s medical statistics about smoking-related disorders become available. Health authorities and experts off-and-on give the public an idea of the incidence of various types of cancers in Kashmir, but figures on smoking-related cases, particularly fatalities, does not often come into the public ken. The issue assumes urgency in view of the fact that non-smoking tobacco products figure a little lower in the state than smoking. The impact of smoking on health deserves to be quantified in unequivocal numbers by health experts and authorities in Jammu and Kashmir, since the state has been confirmed to be among the highest users in the country.
It should be instructive that some experts at the Valley’s premier medical research institute had sought to draft the services of the clergy in influencing the public to bring about life-style changes as one component of anti-cancer drives. Farfetched as this obviously is, given that the clergy, with its self-serving ways, has failed to make the slightest dent even in the most glaring of social evils, the huge array of specialists at the institute would have done infinitely better by bringing out some hard data about smoking-related cancers and mortality in Kashmir.