West Bengal Yet to Shun Tobacco

We had a conversation with a TB affected patient. He said, “I am 43 years old now. I am addicted to tobacco since 25 years.”

Amin Hussain for BeyondHeadlines

“Tobacco” is banned in almost 23 states out of 28 states in India. The manufacturing of Tobacco and sale of both oral used tobacco and smoked tobacco is prohibited in the states of India including West Bengal. But in West Bengal, there is no proper enforcement against tobacco usage. Why?

West Bengal is the 4th most populous state in India with 100 millions of peoples. But, in this region is the socio-economic problem is high. Beedi rolling is the peripheral job of the people and it provides livelihood to an estimated of 5-7 millions of people living in West Bengal.DSCN2048

Tobacco is banned under the Food Safety and Standard Act of 2011 in India. Before heralding this Act, Sikkim has already obstructed the Tobacco’s manufacturing and vending of both oral used and smoked tobacco. Following Sikkim, Assam, Bihar, Maharashtra, Kerala and some of the other states across India also banned the tobacco. In West Bengal, even after one year of enforcement of law, there is no adherence to rule of law. The FSS Act passed remains only on the paper.

We went and had conversation with some villagers of the Murshidabad district of the West Bengal. They expressed, “We do beedi rolling. About 100-300 rolls are made by one person per day. We earn 90 rupees from 100 rolls of beedis”. They further said, “We do beedi rolling because there is no means to earn money for our livelihood besides this and it maintains and faces the family’s requirements.

We have no knowledge of the effects and causes of this tobacco. All that we know is we are able to make money for our basic needs”. Many among these workers prominently smoke tobacco. They also told that, some workers are even addicted to tobacco and are suffering from deadly diseases like cancer, tuberculosis, etc.

We had a conversation with a TB affected patient. He said, “I am 43 years old now. I am addicted to tobacco since 25 years. I used to smoke 35-40 tobacco rolls a day and now I am suffering from TB. I have no knowledge of its effects. I am treated in Primary Health Centre with Multiple Drug Therapy. Even they did not tell me regarding the causes of the disease. I was asked to take medicines regularly”. When we communicated with another person, he said, “I am involved in beedi making and consuming over 15 years from the age of 17 years. I have not faced any diseases so far. But people who do not have the habit of consuming tobacco are suffering from various illnesses like cancer & TB. So I do not feel any necessity to avoid tobacco.

DSCN2045The people dwelling in these places are illiterate and are totally unaware of the effects of tobacco. In general, tobacco is a part of their lives and they start consuming it right from the age of 17-19 years. We also came to know that many people are using tobacco from their childhood. The children of these tobacco workers attend a government school. After school, their children also join their parents in beedi making. They help their parents for livelihood. 90% of women and 75% of men are involved in beedi making. The raw materials are provided in the factories. And these factories vend the tobacco rolls in the central zone of India after packing it.

“Tobacco” is an stale word, not an innovated word. It contains nicotine, a potent addictive substance and carcinogenetic tobacco-specific nitrosamines, albeit at differing level.

After intake of Tobacco, nicotine is absorbed in the systematic circulation and reaches it within 10-20 sec with steady concentration of nicotine. Nicotine is extensively metabolized with cotinine as the main primary metabolite and nicotine excreted via the kidney. Like as smoking it also produces several carcinogenic pyrolytic that binds to DNA and cause many genetic mutations.

 Cigarettes smoking and oral use of tobacco is a leading cause of preventable deaths and significantly increase the risk of developing lung cancer, heart diseases, chronic bronchitis emphysema and other serious diseases and adverse health conditions.


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