After succeeding in banning the sale of gutka and other smokeless tobacco products in 16 states and three union territories in the country, the directors of 12 regional cancer centres in India, along with the Indian Dental Association and Tata Memorial Hospital, have written letters to the prime minister and the Union health minister to implement the ban in the remaining states as well.
In the letters drafted and sent on November 19, the oncologists have raised serious concerns over the growing gutka/paan masala menace and urged the Government of India to take immediate action to completely ban the manufacture and sale of all smokeless tobacco products throughout the country.
“Tobacco is a crime against humanity and cancer patients are the victims of the tobacco industry. Indian youth are dying of mouth cancer in epidemic proportions. Gutka is one of the most deadly avatars of tobacco that is unique to India,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck surgeon, Tata Memorial Hospital.
He added that a nationwide gutka ban will prevent millions of youth from dying prematurely and save crores of rupees spent on health care.
Last year,17 regional cancer centre directors had written to prime minister Manmohan Singh, urging him to implement the gutka ban across India. So far, 16 states and three union territories have implemented the ban, thanks to an exemplary campaign by Voice of Tobacco Victims with support from Tata Memorial Hospital, regional cancer centres and civil society organisations across India.
An overall ban will remove the possibility of the products being smuggled from one state to another.
According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) India, there are an estimated 275 million tobacco users in India, of whom 25.9% are smokeless tobacco users, while 5.7% smoke cigarettes and 9.2% smoke beedis.