The incidence of oral cancer could see a drop. This is the hope held out by a survey conducted four months after the state banned gutkha and pan masala in July.
Of a total of 2,500 respondents, 94% (2,350 people), including gutkha users, said the ban was justified.
The survey was carried out by Salaam Bombay Foundation, a non-governmental organisation which played a key role in bringing about the ban. Its programme director, Devika Chadha, said that gutkha and pan masala would not see any new users in the state after the ban. “Obviously, it will help reduce the burden of oral cancer,” said Chadha.
At the same time, a chunky 90% of respondents (2,250 people) said they’d switch to other tobacco products like bidi, khaini or mava. “These other products are not banned but are equally harmful,” said Chadha. “We need to now work towards banning these.”
Tobacco products can broadly be classified into two categories — smoke-emitting items (cigarettes and bidis) and smoke-free ones (khaini, mava, gutkha and pan masala).
Estimates have pegged the number of tobacco users in India to 27.5 crore. Of these, 25.9% use smokeless tobacco, 5.7% smoke cigarettes and 9.2% smoke bidis.
Rampant use of chewable tobacco has led to over 80,000 new cases of oral cancers being reported annually, making India the world’s oral cancer capital. So far, 16 states and 3 Union territories have banned gutkha and pan masala with tobacco/nicotine.