Gutkha the Mouth Freshener that Kills


Gutka VendorWe’ve heard the saying, good things come in small packages. But, there is an antithesis to this. It’s called Gutkha. Sold in pocket size packages that cost anywhere between Re 1 to Rs 4, Gutka has some adverse effects.

Prepared from crushed betel nut, tobacco and sweet or savoury flavourings, ghutka can catch the fancy of almost anyone. This mild stimulant can cause cancer of lungs, lips, tongue, oral cavity, throat and larynx, uterus and urinary bladder and several other tobacco-related diseases.

In India, it is consumed by both adult and children, in equal numbers. In fact, most ghutka manufactures market the product to children by referring to it as a candy or mouth fresheners. For instance, there are packs that highlight, chocolate-flavoured or mint and so on. Most of these packets don’t even highlight tobacco as an ingredient. Even, if they do, the exact percentage is not mentioned.

Apart from marketing, in India chewing of tobacco or consuming in the form of gutkha, is not frowned upon. So, many use this form of consumption as an alternative to cigarette smoking. Though an alternative at the start, it is believed to cause the need to smoke in an individual at a later stage, and also poses a threat of becoming a habit that is difficult to quit.

As reported in one of the leading national dailies, in India, 85 per cent of tobacco consumption is in the form of khaini, ghutka (both flavoured chewing tobacco) and beedi, a large market for which thrives in rural areas and smaller towns.

This highly addictive products, has been a subject of controversy in India for many years. Many states have either tried to curb its sales by levying heavy taxes or have laid a complete ban on the usage. But, is a ban really the answer? What we really need to use, is the power of education that will help eradicate the need by choice and not by force.
School children in India with Submucus Fibrosis due to chewing tobacco, most cases result in cancer


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