Even Superman Succumbs to Tobacco
India’s smokeless tobacco epidemic claims actor whose character fought “gutka king”
Posted by: Editor | Sep 16, 2011
Tobacco does not spare even Superman.
Shafique Sheikh, a 25-year old Indian actor, became a local celebrity playing Superman in a spoof of the popular superhero movies. In Sheikh's version of the film, Superman battled an evil "gutka king" who wants to flood the town with cheap, addictive chewing tobacco.
In real life, the former textile worker had begun using the local form of smokeless tobacco — gutka — at age eight, consuming as many as 40 packets daily until he was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous condition in his jaw when he was 18.
The condition developed into cancer. Sheik had most of his tongue and glands from both sides of his neck removed. He died in the first week of September, just after the release of his new film "Ye Hai Malegaon Ka Superman" (This is Malegaon Superman).
Because he could not attend the premier, the producers arranged a special farewell screening for Sheikh, who watched from a specially prepared bed, and his family.
Ready-made gutka sachets are widely available to children in India, and are sold for pennies at thousands of shops and kiosks. An estimated 5 million kids are addicted to the flavored tobacco product. It's responsible for 90 percent of oral cancer cases in India, which has the highest rate of oral cancer in the world.
The government is only now beginning to take action to stem the epidemic, and enforcement is lax.