Hyderabad: The ban on gutka has helped reduce consumption of the harmful product, reveals a new study conducted by the World Health Organisation along with John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in India.
While consumption has reduced due to scarcity of gutka, authorities are still not doing enough to ensure that it is eradicated from the market. The study claims that the consumption of gutka has decreased by 49 per cent since its availability has come down. But those who consume it regularly know where to get their stocks from.
If earlier, an addict consumed 10 packets a day, it has now reduced to two packets per day. They use loose tobacco, mixed with zarda and paan masalas, to make up for the shortfall.
Dr Vijay Anand Reddy, director and senior consultant at Apollo Cancer Hospital, said, “The ban has created awareness but implementation is a long-drawn out process and has to be constantly carried out. With gutka now not being directly available, there are fewer number of new addicts, but those who are into it still find ways of getting the packets. A lot of work needs to be done at the ground level where not only gutka, but other forms of tobacco and their combinations are also banned.”
There are 1,00,000 new cases of oral cancer every year in India and 90 per cent of them are related to the use of tobacco. Dr Umakanth Nayak, head and neck surgeon, said, “We find patients between 18 to 25 years developing oral cancer. The treatment makes the entire family suffer. There are also addicts who have been consuming it for a decade and nothing happens to them, so they are not willing to listen. Controlling this menace needs a combined effort of education and proper implementation to ensure that it is not available.”
Oncologists state that there are causal and serious addicts. The casual ones usually have gutka once in 15 days. They have been greatly affected by the ban and the fear of oral cancer has made them give up.
Cinema halls and malls have visuals or advertisements of victims who have suffered from oral cancer, urging viewers to get rid of the habit. While awareness has been created, not getting into the habit is still a very challenging task. A senior doctor said, “It is very much consumed by the higher-middle class during business meetings and traders and retailers too share it.
Group meetings with friends over tea still ends with a mash of tobacco, pan masala and zarda. These habits are prolific because it is considered to be one more option of relaxation among men. But this can lead to major addiction.”