Efforts to Ban Cancer-Causing Gutka Gain Momentum in India
Maharashtra becomes fourth state to act this year
Posted by: Editor | Jul 17, 2012
There is growing momentum in India to ban gutka, a form of chewing tobacco flavored with spices and sweeteners that is a major cause of oral cancer in the country. Maharashtra, which has Mumbai as its capital, has become the latest Indian state to ban the cheap, mass-produced product, joining three other states – Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Bihar – that have done so this year, according to a story by AFP.
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. The product is sold in small plastic pouches and contains toxic chemicals such as lead, arsenic and copper.
Gutka is extremely cheap – with most packets selling for just one rupee (two U.S. cents) – and is easily purchased at thousands of kiosks and shops throughout India, making it popular with kids. An estimated 5 million kids are addicted to the product.
The movement to ban gutka is being spearheaded by cancer doctors and patients in a campaign called Voice of Tobacco Victims. The campaign's leader, Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, a head and neck cancer specialist, says that half his mouth cancer patients die within 12 months of diagnosis, while survivors are left severely disabled.
"If children will not have access [to gutka], then I see a better future," Dr. Chaturvedi told AFP.
Other states, including Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, are also considering gutka bans. They should act quickly to save lives.