Sunil Kumar Singh started chewing tobacco when he was in college. He was 25-years-old.
Now owner of an electronic appliances shop at Station Road in Patna, Sunil was diagnosed with mouth cancer three years back.
His family has spent around Rs 5 lakh on his treatment. His wife had to sell off her ornaments to meet the cost of treatment and his elder son had to be taken off school because of a financial crunch. He did admit the boy to a different school this year, but is unsure of continuing because of the ongoing financial crisis.
Sunil was one of the many tobacco victims who shared their experiences during a programme organised by Voice of Tobacco Victims, a voluntary organisation comprising doctors and social activists, in Patna on Sunday.
The organisation spreads awareness on the ill effects of tobacco consumption in any form.
Brajesh Kumar Mishra is a 45-year-old priest from Rajeev Nagar area. His story was somewhat similar to that of Sunil.
Brajesh was diagnosed with tongue cancer a year back though he gave up chewing tobacco around five years back. Doctors had to cut half his tongue off, where the malignancy was strong. He is still undergoing chemotherapy. He finds himself unable to open his mouth wide because of a swelling in the lower portion of his right cheek. His family is fighting a major financial crisis as well.
"My son was not allowed to sit for his B.Tech exams because of low attendance," said Sangeeta Mishra, Brajesh's wife, a teacher at a private school in the city. "That was a major setback for us. He had to stay at home to look after his father and it went against him. I met his institute director and apprised him of our situation, after which he was allowed write the exam.
My daughter was also irregular in her postgraduate classes. It was tough for me to help my children get back to normal life," she added.
Sanjay Seth, chief of operations at Voice of Tobacco Victims, highlighted figures to show the increasing impact of tobacco consumption in the state.
"According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2010, conducted by the ministry of health and family welfare, 3.6 crore people in the state consume tobacco at present, and around 1.25 lakh deaths occur every year in the state," he said.
He demanded effective implementation of the Control of Tobacco Products Act.
Oncologist V.P. Singh, a patron of the organisation, said tobacco consumption did not necessarily lead to cancer but it did increase chances of other diseases such as heart disorders, paralytic attack, muscle weakness and impotency.
"Those who consume tobacco in any form have 10 times the chance of developing cancer than others," said the doctor.