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‘Smokeless tobacco is also harmful’

Published : 05 Oct 2019 09:34 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 10:21 PM

Availability and low price of smokeless tobacco products, especially ‘zarda’, ‘sadapata’ and ‘gul’ are the major catalysts behind the increasing number of non-smoking tobacco users in the country.

Bangladesh has made progress in tobacco control in recent years. On the other hand, people continue to die and become sick, and the costs to society from tobacco use continue to mount. 

A UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative) research states that the highest price of ‘zarda’, weighing 140 gram, is BDT 280.

It also said, smokeless tobacco (SLT) constitutes more than 50% of tobacco use among men and women in Bangladesh. Yet, it has received less attention in tobacco control policies and actions because of perceived less harmful health effects than smoking as well as social and cultural acceptance of its use in Bangladesh.

Overall tobacco users in the country are 35.3% (37.8 million adults) and smoked tobacco users 18% (19.2 million adults).

Smoking habit is higher among men, 36.2% and 0.8% of women. However, smokeless tobacco users are 20.6% (22.0 million adults), 18.7% use betel quid with tobacco, 3.6% use ‘gul’.

Smokeless tobacco use is higher among women: 16.2% men and 24.8% women. At least 63.6% of the current smokeless tobacco users purchase the tobacco from stores.

Bangladesh is one of the South Asian countries, where 80% of all smokeless tobaccos are consumed as it is integral to culture, being incorporated in traditional values, spirituality, beliefs, festivals, marriage ceremonies, lifestyle, rituals and popular entertainment

According to Journal of Medicine Cases (JMC), addiction to 'Gul' and 'Gutkha' leads to acute pulmonary thrombosis and acute psychosis in any young pregnant lady.

Medicine specialist Professor Motaleb Ahmed at the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), while talking to Bangladesh Post said, “Non-smoke tobacco is not harmful for health or does less damage to human beings, this is a complete misconception. In tobacco blends that are sucked, chewed, sniffed or in some cases swallowed, nicotine is absorbed.”

There are no harmless tobacco products, they can cause adverse oral health outcomes including oral mucosal lesions, leukoplakia, and periodontal diseases, he added.

Professor Sohel Reza Choudhury of the National Heart Foundation Hospital & Research Institute’s (NHFB) Department of Epidemiology and Research said, oral cancer is one of the leading cancers in Bangladesh.

“It has strong link with smokeless tobacco chewing,” he said while adding that the Heart Foundation, in its own research, found a strong link between Gul and heart diseases.

Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of cancer, especially mouth cancers. Second-hand smoke can lead to lung cancer and heart disease as well as other health effects in adults and children. For many who use tobacco, long-term brain effects are caused from continued nicotine exposure as a result of addiction.