WASHINGTON (TIP): An Indian doctor of Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital has been awarded with the prestigious Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence for his innovative efforts in reducing tobacco consumption in India. Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, cancer surgeon, received the award by the ‘Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ yesterday at a function here. The smokeless tobacco industry has unleashed an epidemic of such cancers in India, with alarming increases among our youth. In fact, India has earned the dubious distinction of being the mouth cancer capital of the world,” Chaturvedi said in his acceptance speech through video. He added that tobacco kills at least one million Indians each year.
This is equivalent to ten packed jumbo jets crashing every day or ten tsunamis hitting our shores every year. Chaturvedi also heads the advocacy group Voice of Tobacco Victims, which is leading India’s growing tobacco control movement that has resulted in ban of smokeless tobacco products in nearly all Indian states and increased taxes on tobacco throughout the country. “We have worked through our courts and state governments to ban sale of gutka, a cheap and popular form of smokeless tobacco that is a primary cause of the oral cancer epidemic. 23 of India’s 28 states and five of seven union territories have now banned the sale of gutka,” Chaturvedi said. He added that tax on tobacco products in 20 Indian states covering a total population of over 700 million people have been increased. “If these tax increases result in comparable price increases, they can save as many as 5 million lives. These changes were unimaginable just a few short years ago,” he said.
The Wilkenfeld Award was established in honour of Judy Wilkenfeld, the founder of Tobacco-Free Kids’ international program, who passed away in May 2007. The award recognises international tobacco control advocates who contribute significantly to reducing tobacco use and inspire others to do the same in the spirit exemplified by Wilkenfeld. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world.