Oral cancer kills 3 daily 2,400 new patients each year

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By 2017-09-23

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Around 2,400 new oral cancer patients are recorded each year in Sri Lanka with majority of the cases related to the chewing of betel leaf (bulath wita) with arecanut, tobacco and slaked lime, Institute of Oral Health Maharagama, Dr. Hemantha Amarasinghe said.

"Three people die everyday from oral cancer in Sri Lanka. Chewing betel falls under the category of smokeless tobacco which includes tobacco products that are often chewed, like babul. That is why the government decided to ban the import and production of these products," he said.

Amarasinghe added that although the ban has ensured that these products are not sold openly, it is however, freely available on the black market. Health officials are continuously educating the implementing officers as well as the general public about the dangers of these products, he said.

"A lot of people assume that the bulath wita is a habit only with the elderly. Young bus and trishaw drivers are also known to chew tobacco products as stimulants. I have even seen university students addicted to it. We need to address all these issues and keep on educating the people," he said.

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