Around 250 million people consume smokeless tobacco in 11 countries in South-East Asia, accounting for 90 percent of global smokeless tobacco users, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO’s Regional Director for South-East Asia Samlee Plianbangchang told a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia that the worst situation is seen in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand.

According to him, lack of public awareness and incomplete knowledge about the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco are powerful obstacles in creating effective tobacco control policies.

He said smokeless tobacco is the main cause of oral cancer and is associated with high risk for cardiovascular diseases, stillbirths, low birth weight and other some health problems.

The WHO said the South-East Asia region carries the highest burden of oral cancer with over 95,000 oral cancer cases each year, mostly the poor.

Studies in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand have shown that smokeless tobacco are more prevalent among the less educated and illiterate population.

The world health body recommended regional governments to pay more attention on anti-smokeless tobacco work, including the involvement of social organisations, in an effort to reduce 30 percent of 15-year-old and above smokeless tobacco users.-VNA