Telangana food safety authority bans gutkha, pan masala for one year

The prohibition, aimed at safeguarding public health, comes into force immediately and will remain in effect for a year.

BySumit Jha

Published May 26, 2024 | 9:53 PM Updated May 26, 2024 | 9:53 PM

Cancer, tobacco: As per the global adult tobacco survey (GATS), 199.4 million adults in India consumed smokeless tobacco. (Shutterstock)

The Commissioner of Food Safety, Telangana, has issued a notification prohibiting the manufacture, storage, distribution, transportation, and sale of gutkha and pan masala containing tobacco and nicotine.

The department stated that the order was effective for one year from Friday, 24 May.

The prohibition, aimed at safeguarding public health, came into force immediately and would remain in effect for a year.

The notification reads: “In exercise of the powers conferred under clause (a) of Subsection (2) of Section 30 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, read with 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011, and in the interest of public health, the Commissioner of Food Safety, Telangana State, hereby prohibits the manufacture, storage, distribution, transportation, and sale of Gutka/Pan Masala containing tobacco and nicotine as an ingredient, which is packed in sachets, pouches, packages, containers, etc., or by whatever name it is called, in the entire State of Telangana for a period of one year with effect from May 24, 2024.”

Related: What do cricket, Bollywood, and oral cancer have in common in India?

Dangers of gutkha and pan masala

In India, where 14,13,316 cancer cases and 9,16,827 cancer-related deaths were documented in 2022, a particular type of cancer — less common globally — has become a significant concern.

Lip and oral cavity cancer rank second, following breast cancer, among prevalent cancers in India.

According to WHO data, 1,43,759 cases and 79,979 deaths from this cancer were reported in 2022 alone.

The chewing of tobacco and pan often leads to ulcerative lesions, initially presenting with pain.

Dr AN Vaidhyswaran, the director of and a senior consultant radiation oncologist at Kauvery Hospital in Chennai, explained that oral cancer was primarily associated with habits such as tobacco chewing and the use of gutkha.

Gutkha users typically place it inside their mouths, holding it with the thumb under the lip.

In the past, chewing tobacco leaves and betel nuts were common practices, involving crushing the leaves and placing them in the mouth, typically between the lip and the lower gum, leading to cheek cancers being more prevalent.

Placing pan or gutkha under the lip can lead to lip cancer, while gingival cancers — especially in the lower gums — are also prevalent due to the common practice of placing it under the tongue.

Lip cancer affects the skin of the lips, primarily the lower lip, and is mostly identified as squamous cell carcinomas originating from the thin, flat cells in the skin’s middle and outer layers.

Oral cavity cancer encompasses cancers occurring in the mouth, including the lips, inside the lining of the lips and cheeks (buccal mucosa), teeth, gums, front two-thirds of the tongue, the floor of the mouth beneath the tongue, and the bony roof of the mouth (hard palate).

The majority of oral-cavity and oropharynx cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, originating from the thin, flat squamous cells in these areas.

Smokeless tobacco causes not only lip and oral cavity cancer but also cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, kidney, and intestines.