Paan shops see big profits in gutka ban

In a surprising twist to the banning of gutka and paan masala in the State, ‘Paan Beedi’ (petty) shops owners in the City have endorsed the block whole-heartedly.

Many shopkeepers see the ban as a source to earn higher returns and optimistically predict an increase in the sales of betel leaf (paan) and cigarettes. “Contrary to the belief of many, gutka and paan masala has never been a source of profit, it is a product only used to attract consumers to the shop and hope that they buy a pen, a book or anything profitable to us,” explained Ramcharan Misra, a paan shop owner in Johnson Market.

He added that sales of gutka would hardly fetch them 20 per cent of the selling price and that on an average their additional profits would never exceed Rs 30 to 40 in a day. “Our real profit comes from the sale of ‘paan’, and we charge anywhere between Rs 10 to 25, which nets us substantial profits,” he said.

“Since I am sure people will start chewing more betel leaf from now on, I have already started stocking up on more leaves and arecanut.”

Another shopkeeper, Noushad Pasha, pointed out that unlike cigarettes, gutka had never been a complementary product to something like tea, “With cigarettes I am assured that the person will have a cup of tea,” he said. “Gutka never assured me that. With the ban on gutka I feel more people will smoke and many will increase their consumption of tea or coffee to beat their addiction.”

While shopkeepers seem over optimistic, regular gutka and paan masala consumers feel that the ban is going to be harsh on them — at least in the short run.

Desperate search

Many consumers confided to Deccan Herald that they were in a desperate search of alternatives. Chikkalingaiah  a worker at a construction site said, “I will have to switch to betel leaf, my job is filled with strain and I need something to get me relaxed. Betel nut is not the perfect alternative but I will have to settle.”

Another consumer, Suresh D, said that he was looking at medicated nicotine gum which is available at pharmacies to help him beat his addiction.

Surprisingly, many addicts also called the ban a blessing in disguise and claim that the ban has worked in their favour. “I have been trying to quit chewing tobacco for years, but I have failed regularly and this ban has now forced me quit,” said Nicholas Raj, an autorickshaw driver.

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