Gutka ban useful but not foolproof, finds survey

Written By Unknown on Rabu, 17 Desember 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: A survey spanning seven states and the National Capital Region has found the gutka ban to be a deterrent, but not completely effective.

The study underlined how the ban has had a negative impact on the rampant availability of gutka and its consumption among both men and women, but also that gutka has not completely disappeared from the commercial space.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study selected 1,001 current and former gutka users to understand their behavioural patterns. The findings deduced that 66% of the 311 respondents who had quit gutka attributed it to the ban. Also, over 90% of those interviewed in the survey were strongly in favour of a blanket ban on the product.

The state is one of the few to have banned the manufacture, distribution and sale of gutka for the past three years. The move by the then Food and Drug Administration commissioner Mahesh Zagade had caused many ripples among manufacturers.

Around 88% of quitters in the state said they did it because of the ban while in states like Gujarat the ban was a deterrent only for 41%. Gutka, a form of chewing tobacco flavored with spices and sweeteners, is a leading cause of oral cancer in the country.

The survey highlighted how at least 400 retail outlets in all these states did not put gutka on display. "These findings have a strong message that regulatory mechanisms are effective and can have a positive impact on the consumption pattern," said Dr Nata Menabde, WHO representative to India.

The study was conducted in the state, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and the National Capital Region.

The month-long study also showed that both manufacturers and users had found ways to outsmart the ban. Around 84% of the 690 respondents using tobacco in its smokeless and smoking form reported purchasing ingredients separately and combining or mixing their own gutka. "Mixing tobacco with paan masala and zarda or such innovations are adversely affecting the purpose and impact of the ban," said Dr Pradeep Krishnatray, director, research and strategic planning at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Around 15% even continued to purchase pre-packaged gutka, which is supposed to have completely disappeared, despite it costing double or four times the previous cost.

A fourth of the 458 retailers interviewed in the survey revealed they were approached by a gutka supplier after the ban. The study underlined how the ban had varying impacts on different states and that stricter implementation was required.

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