Over 40 per cent of 1.5 lakh patients coming to the Regional Cancer Centre here every year suffer from cancers due to use of tobacco products while incidence of tobacco-related disease has gone up among youngsters as well, RCC Director Dr Paul Sebastian said today. Speaking at an interactive session at the Centre with tobacco use victims, where Speaker G Karthikeyan was also present, he said this public health malady affecting Kerala can be averted by raising tobacco taxes. He pointed to the example of Rajasthan, which had raised taxes to 65 per cent, thereby reducing consumption, saving precious lives, besides bringing in additional revenue to the exchequer. In the case of Kerala, a mere 2.5 per cent increase in cigarette taxes had brought in nearly Rs 100 crore to the government, he said. Speaking at the function, got up by 'Voice of Tobacco Victims' (VoTV) campaign, Karthikeyan said more proactive interventions are needed to bring down tobacco use in Kerala and assured all support in bringing down the disease burden due to tobacco use in the state. One of the patients Balan said his life changed for the worse after he became afflicted with cancer. "I realise that tobacco use brought untold miseries to me and my family.
I have three daughters; their education had to be discontinued because of the disease," he said. Sebastian, who is also Chairman of VoTV, emphasised the need to impose tax on beedis that severely affects people of poor socio-economic background in Kerala. "Beedis are not taxed at all in the state," he said.