Tobacco is a major risk factor for cancer. Tobacco smoke contains approximately 7000 of chemical substances, among which 70 are known to cause or promote cancer. These carcinogens are responsible for 12 types of cancer which includes lung cancer, oral cancer and others. Even exposure to second-hand smoke can also cause cancer. Only the adoption and implementation of a strong tobacco control law can prevent the rise in cases of tobacco-induced cancers.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), 2022 alone saw at least 20 million people getting diagnosed with cancer. The deadly disease also claimed a shocking 9.7 million lives in 2022. What underscores the urgency of tobacco control in cancer prevention is the fact that globally lung cancer patients constitute the majority of this newly diagnosed and deceased. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified smoking as the foremost contributing factor behind lung cancer. As per WHO, quitting tobacco use and some other measures/lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of death from cancer by 30-50 percent.
When it comes to the Bangladesh context, IARC also reports that in 2022, the death toll from cancer in the country stood at 116,598. The high prevalence of tobacco use is worsening this situation. As per Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2017, 37.8 million (35.3 percent) Bangladeshi adults use tobacco. 8.1 million Bangladeshis fall victim to second-hand smoke exposure at the workplace. At least 25 million adults are exposed to such smoke while using public transport. On average, Tobacco-related diseases claim 161,000 lives a year in Bangladesh.
On the occasion of World Cancer Day 2024, ABM Zubair, Executive Director of research and advocacy organisation PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) said, “The draft amendment of tobacco control law, now awaiting the approval from the Cabinet, must be finalized at the earliest. The longer it takes for the government to adopt and implement the draft amendment, the higher the death toll from cancer and other tobacco-related diseases will rise.”