The Andhra Pradesh government has banned the manufacture and sale of gutkha and pan masala in the state with immediate effect, according to the State Health and Family Welfare Department.
The ban has made Andhra Pradesh the 14th state in the country to take the step towards eradicating tobacco use, bringing down shutters on the 12 gutkha manufacturing units in the state.
Various departments, including vigilance and enforcement, commercial tax, transport, labour, municipal administration, panchayat raj and police will work together to enforce the ban.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2010), released by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in October 2010, about 29 per cent of the adult population in AP consume tobacco products in some form or the other. Among them, 15 per cent use smokeless tobacco while 17.4 per cent are smokers.
“Every year, over 80,000 new cases of oral cancer is reported in India due to the high use of tobacco. The ban is going to save millions of lives. This is a laudable move,” said Dr Vijayanand Reddy, Director of Apollo Cancer Hospital here.
Experts point out that among the 3,095 chemical components found in the tobacco products, including gutkha, 28 were proved to be carcinogens which cause cancer. "The use of chewing tobacco is associated with the high prevalence of oral cancer in India. Over 90 per cent of oral cancer is directly associated with tobacco use. India has the highest prevalence of oral cancer globally,” Dr Reddy said.
The State Commissioner of Food Safety had requested the government to impose a ban on gutkha, pan masala and other chewable tobacco products since they were injurious to health. As per the GO, the enforcement personnel of the Food Safety and Standards Act will now be deployed at the inter-state check posts to keep a vigil on illegal transportation of the banned items into the state.
While it is widely known that gutkha causes oral cancer in the long run, not many users are aware that its immediate effects are on the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems. The non-food grade agents and chemicals present in gutka can also lead to heart attacks and infertility, experts warned.
Since 90 per cent of the manufacturing is done in the unorganised sector, the exact size of the gutkha and pan masala industry in India is not known.
According to an estimate by the Smokeless Tobacco Federation of India, the industry is worth around Rs 20,000 crore.