Ban on Smokeless Gutka Gains Ground in India
States in oral cancer capital of the world take action
Posted by: Editor | Jun 8, 2012
A growing number of states in India have banned or are considering bans on smokeless gutka, a cancer-causing cocktail of flavored smokeless tobacco and additives. Extremely cheap and easily purchased by children and teenagers, an estimated 5 million kids are addicted to the product.
The movement began earlier this year, when authorities in the state of Madhya Pradesh acted on regulatory and court rulings that said gutka was consumed as a food, and that tobacco and nicotine could not be used as ingredients in food products. The state cancelled the licenses of seven gutka manufacturing companies and said it would impose heavy fines on violators.
Soon after, the state government of Kerala banned the manufacture and sale of gutka. And on the eve of World No Tobacco Day, the state government of Bihar — where 40 percent of the population uses smokeless tobacco — became the third Indian state to implement a gutka ban. At least seven other state governments are discussing implementation of bans stemming from the ruling on tobacco in food products.
Gutka is the most popular form of smokeless tobacco in India. It is flavored with spices and sweeteners and often is sold in inexpensive, small plastic pouches. Each pouch contains toxic chemicals including heavy metals like lead, arsenic, cadmium and copper.
As a result of widespread addiction to gutka, India accounts for 86 percent of the world’s oral cancer cases and is known as the oral cancer capital of the world.
A movement for life-saving change is now emerging, with states wisely stepping in where the national government has been slow to act.