By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, April 3: BJP MP from Tezpur RP Sharma, who is a member of the parliamentary committee on subordite legislation, has courted controversy by seeking evidence that smoking causes cancer. This despite the fact that up to 9 lakh Indians die every year from smoking related diseases including cancer.
“I know two elderly persons who drank a bottle of alcohol and smoked 60 cigarettes every day. One is still alive, the other died at 86. On the other hand, I know a man who never used to take such products, not even betel nut. He is now a cancer patient,” he said.
Sharma is the third parliamentarian in as many days from the ruling BJP at the Centre to side with the tobacco industry. A Congress MP from Kartaka, S P Muddahanumegowda, joined them in stating that the government has no evidence that links smoking with cancer.
RP Sharma is member of the parliamentary committee on subordite legislation which is reviewing government plans to enforce larger pictorial warnings (85 per cent of the packet) on cigarette packets starting April 1.
“Whether smoking causes cancer or not is debatable,” Sharma said.
While defending the tobacco industry, BJP’s Shyam Charan Gupta told a TV channel on Thursday, “Sugar causes diabetes...do we ban it?”
He also denied that his ownership of a beedi (hand-rolled cigarettes) empire that’s worth hundreds of crores, may have influenced his opinion.
The members of the parliamentary committee claim that there are no Indian reports that credibly correlate cancer with cigarettes.
“Let the Indian doctors, experts and pertinent authorities come to us and prove that smoking causes cancer. Why should we believe what experts from other countries are saying? We cannot decide on anything, unless we have proper and concrete evidence…otherwise what will the people think of the parliamentary committee?”, Sharma told The Sentinel.
Health experts and activists point out that up to 900,000 Indians die every year from causes related to tobacco use. India will record 15 lakh tobacco-related deaths annually by 2020, according to some estimates by the Intertiol Tobacco Control Project.