60% of Bihar schoolchildren consuming tobacco, study finds

Survey of 10,000 schoolchildren under 15 reveals 90% suffering from teeth-related diseases

Patna: Authorities in Bihar are alarmed over the report that around 60 per cent of schoolchildren enrolled in government schools are consuming tobacco.

The startling revelation about schoolchildren falling victim to tobacco and gutkha — a sweetened mixture of chewing tobacco, betel nut and palm nut — came to light in a new survey conducted by Patna Dental College and Hospital, a government hospital affiliated to the Patna University.

The survey conducted on around 10,000 schoolchildren in the age-group of 12 and 15 found 90 per cent of the children suffering from teeth-related diseases. The team which conducted the survey for six months found the situation quite alarming and said the children may suffer from deadly cancer if immediate steps were not initiated to check this habit.

“The report is indeed alarming and we are forwarding the survey report to the health department for necessary action,” Principal of Patna Dental College and Hospital, Dr DK Singh told the media on Monday. He said the habit of tobacco consumption might cause cancer in little schoolchildren given the prevailing condition which is really serious.

Health experts say the chances of people falling victim to cancer were strong if they consumed tobacco for five to seven years. According to an official report, about 50,000 people have been dying of cancer every year in Bihar, indicating the gravity of the situation. According to a report compiled by Patna-based Bhojpur, Begusarai, Muzaffarpur and Patna districts have the highest incidence of cancer in the state.

A latest report from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), a global standard for systematically monitoring adult tobacco use, however, has come as much-needed relief to the state with the survey showing a significant decline in overall tobacco use prevalence.

“Bihar has registered the highest decrease in tobacco use prevalence across all states for which the second round of GATS data has been released in the country, so far. This phenomenal decrease is across products including smoking and smokeless,” director of National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research Dr Ravi Mehrotra said. The report was released last month.


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