Implement gutkha ban across country: Cancer centre chiefs

A year ago, 17 Regional Cancer Centre directors wrote to the Prime Minister, urging him to implement the ban on gutkha across the country. Till date, 16 states and three Union Territories (UTs) have announced the ban on gutkha and paan masala with tobacco/nicotine. Voice of Tobacco Victims with support from Tata Memorial Hospital, Regional Cancer Centres and civil society organisations across the country had launched an extensive campaign.

However, in individual letters sent by the cancer centre directors, along with the Indian Dental Association and Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, have now urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to implement the ban in the remaining states.

The directors raised serious concerns over the growing gutka/pan masala menace and urged the Centre to take urgent action to completely ban the manufacture and also the sale of all smokeless tobacco products throughout the country.

"Cancer patients are victims of tobacco industry. Indian youths are dying of mouth cancer in epidemic proportions. Gutkha is one of the most deadly avatars of tobacco that is unique to India," said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Head & Neck surgeon, Tata Memorial Hospital. A nationwide gutkha ban will save millions of youth from dying prematurely and billions of rupees spent on healthcare, he added.

Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director, Voluntary Health Association of India, has also called for implementation of the gutkha ban in the remaining states.

As per Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) India, the estimated number of tobacco users in the country is 275 million of which 25.9 per cent are users of smokeless tobacco while 5.7 per cent are cigarette smokers and 9.2 per cent smoke bidi. This shows 206 million of Indians use smokeless forms of tobacco products like gutkha, khaini, betel quid with tobacco, gul, gudaku, mishri and so on. The rampant use of chewing tobacco has led to over 80,000 new cases of oral cancers being reported annually, making India the oral cancer capital of the world, the findings showed.

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