Open Letter to Shahrukh Khan to quit smoking on screen.

He denies having any influence on the Gen Next. But superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s decision to quit smoking came as a huge relief to the strong anti-tobacco activists in the city. In fact, Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, associate professor, head and neck service, department of surgery, Tata Memorial Hospital, wrote a letter to SRK. It’s not a simple letter, but shows the influence of SRK even on the medical fraternity.

Written in 2006

Dear Shah Rukh Khan ji,

Your pledge on the eve of your 40th birthday celebration to quit smoking is bound to have a huge impact on curbing tobacco menace in our country. Tobacco is a ‘duplicate’ of suffering and death.

‘Maya memsaab’ may be finding it a ‘chamatkar’ that her ‘raju bangaya gentleman’! Though late, we are happy that you realised that smoking isn’t about ‘kabhi khushi kabhi gam’ but it is all about suffering.

‘Ram jaane’, if you know that tobacco is the commonest causes of preventable death in youth. It is a ‘paheli’ for all of us that knowing well the fate of ‘Devdas’-like lifestyle, you chain-smoked for several decades. Perhaps, when it comes to picking up smoking habit, ‘dil to pagal hai’. ‘O darling yeh hai India’ where 2,200 people die every day due to tobacco related diseases. Despite several tough laws and awareness campaigns, smoking in India is on the rise. ‘Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani’!

Every day more than 55,000 new children pick up tobacco habit in India apart from several millions that are already addicts.

‘Hey Ram’! A study showed that those whose favourite stars smoke on screen are 16 times more likely to have positive attitudes toward smoking.

Unfortunately, our ‘baazigar’ politicians say ‘kabhi haan kabhi naa’ when it comes to banning depiction of tobacco on screen. You became ‘Asoka’ of Bollywood not because you smoked on screen, but because you acted well.

‘Zamaana Deewana’ hai aapka! You can achieve a much bigger status if you become the mascot of the anti-tobacco mission. You are the ‘badshah’ of cinema and if you talk about ‘anjam’ of tobacco addiction to your fans in ‘swades’ or pardes, it will show your ‘mohabbatein’ for them.

‘Yes boss’, you have got the power to instill ‘darr’ in addicts by telling that if they smoke then there is no guarantee that ‘kal ho na ho’. If they find quitting difficult, you can reassure them by saying ‘main hoon na’! ‘Chalte chalte’, I would urge you to spread the message that tobacco se ‘kuchh kuchh hota hai’ and ‘har dil jo pyar karega’ should quit tobacco.

We need a ‘fauji’ with ‘josh’ like you in our ‘army’ against ‘dushman duniya’ ke i.e ‘idiot’ tobacco industry. Forget about us, smoking will affect your own health and we hope that aapko ‘kabhi alwida na kehna’ pade on account of your poor health.

This will also save your ‘chaahat’ i.e. your wife and son from passive smoking. ‘Guddu’, when cameras are turned off, shooting is called off, your fans disappear and the sweat washes away your outer cover, your health will be your true companion.

Those of your ‘deewana’ fans, whose tobacco habit was promoted and legitimized by you, ‘achanak’ feel cheated by your anti-smoking sentiments.

Quitting tobacco isn’t so easy. You may have access to the best tobacco cessation facility in the world but all the addicts aren’t so fortunate. O’ bollywood’s ‘veer, zaara’ think about them!

By Pankaj Chaturvedi.

Published by Prof Pankaj Chaturvedi

Deputy Director, Center for Cancer Epidemiology, Tata Memorial Center, Mumbai. Professor, Department of Head Neck Surgery, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai

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