Ban on gutka has positive impact: WHO

Ban on gutka has positive impact: WHO

Stringent state-level laws banning gutka have a positive impact as reduced product availability has resulted in decreased consumption of gutka, according to World Health Organisation (WHO).

In a study conducted by the WHO in seven states -- Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha and National Capital Region (NCR) -- 92 per cent respondents supported ban on sale of gutka, while a whopping 99 per cent said the ban was good for the health of Indian youth.

"These findings have a strong message that regulatory mechanisms are effective and can have a positive impact on the consumption pattern. The ban did impact use. Of the respondents who continue to use pre-packaged gutka, 49 per cent reported they consume less since the ban.

There was high degree of unanimity among respondents (90 per cent) that the government should ban the manufacturing, sale and distribution of other forms of smokeless tobacco," WHO Representative to India Dr Nata Menabde said in a release here.

However, sharing the peril of use of tobacco with other ingredients like pan masala etc, Director, Research and Strategic Planning at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Communications Programs, Dr Pradeep Krishnatray said most of the respondents consumed tobacco by mixing it with a packet of pan masala with zarda.

"This innovation has adversely affected the very purpose and consequent impact of the ban," he added.

The study found that interest in quitting is high as approximately half of respondents reported attempting to quit gutka in last one year.About 80 per cent of respondents agreed that ban on gutka will help people to quit it.

Of the respondents who quit since ban, a substantial proportion from 41-88 per cent, in each state said they have quit consuming gutka because of the ban.

Surveys were conducted with 1,001 people who currently consume gutka and those who quit it and 458 tobacco product retailers to gain insight into the effect of the ban on consumer use and product availability.

Observations of 450 retail environments and 54 in-depth interviews with government officials, enforcement officials and citizens working with civil society groups were also included in the study.

Gutka, a form of chewing tobacco flavoured with spices and sweeteners, is a major cause of oral cancer in India, it said.

In recent years, all states in the country have banned the manufacturing, sale and distribution of gutka in an effort to address the astounding public health impacts caused by this deadly product.

India is the world's largest consumer of smokeless tobacco and recent estimates indicate that 26 per cent of adults (15 years of age or older) use smokeless tobacco.

Tobacco use is a major preventable cause of death and disease worldwide. Nearly one million people die in India every year due to tobacco use.

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