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Originating in India, Gutka is a preparation designed to be chewed. It consists of betel nuts, tobacco, catechu, slaked lime, and paraffin. Blended with spices and seasonings, it is consumed as a powder and chewed. Gutka is addictive and carcinogenic. Gutka is widely sold across India in small packets.

Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai says a group of entrepreneurs known as “gutka barons” bear much of the blame for this epidemic by mass aggressive marketing strategy. A mix of tobacco and areca nut costs 1 rupee (2 cents) a pack on street corners across India. Sales of chewing tobacco in India, worth 210.3 billion rupees ($4.6 billion) in 2004, are on track to double by 2014, according to Datamonitor, the international research firm.

Gutka sachets. Image source: http://www.packagingsouthasia.com

Due to its easy availability and low cost it is popular among poor children.
It is reported that  more than five million children under the age of 15 years  in India are suffering from mouth cancers which is the direct result of gutkha addiction.

A chemical analysis of gutka in a 2008 report from the WHO found that a typical mix contains chromium, nickel, arsenic, lead, and tobacco-related nitrosamines, all known carcinogens.

In India, the consumption of tobacco products below age 18 is banned. However, due to weak enforcement, tobacco and gutka companies target children and youth. Gutka vendors often open their schools and colleges. We need to create more awareness about the harmful impact of gutka and tobacco, and also ensure that the laws are enforced.

Read more here. In related news, the Supreme Court has banned the sale of  gutka in plastic sachets with effect from March 1, 2011 and asked the government to “conduct a survey on the ill effects of these tobacco products, the bench also asked it to examine the effects of packaging these products in plastics pouches over human health.”

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