-P.Srinivasan / firstname.lastname@example.org
Youth and children generally take Pan Masala as mouth fresheners considering that it will not cause any harm and above all these Pan Masalas contain 0% nicotine and 0% tobacco. The companies selling Pan Masalas clearly mention on their packs that it contains no nicotine and no tobacco.
But it could be possible that packs of Pan Masalas may be containing nicotine or tobacco as few brands of Pan Masala in Bihar were sent to National Tobacco Testing Laboratory and some of them were found containing nicotine.
It is to be mentioned that Bihar government health department secretary had banned sale, manufacturing, storage and transportation of 15 brands of Pan Masala on August 30, 2019 after the report that these Pan Masalas contain toxic Magnesium Carbonate and samples of these brands were sent to National Tobacco Testing Laboratory, Government of India for further testing. The laboratory test report stated that seven out of 15 brands of Pan Masala Brands including Rajnigandha were containing hazardous chemical Nicotine. The seven leading brands were Rajnigandhi, Kamla Pasand, Madhu, Supreme, Rajshree, Signature and Rounak.
As per Food Safety Act 2011 regulation 2.3.4 mixing of nicotine or tobacco to any food products is banned and mixing nicotine with Pan Masala is contempt of Supreme Court’s order. The apex court on April 3, 2013 issuing an order in the case of Ankut Gutkha had banned Pan Masala and gutkha containing nicotine and had directed all states to ensure abiding by this order.
This revelation of Pan Masalas containing nicotine and magnesium carbonate has shocked oncologists in the country.
Dr (Prof) Pankaj Chaturvedi, Deputy Director at Tata Memorial Hospital said that we shocked to know that nicotine was found in samples of Pan Masala in Bihar. He said – “Pan Masala industry is a rogue industry and they have a long history of adulteration and misinformation. There are several studies conducted in Indian labs that have directly proven harmful effects of Pan Masala. I compliment Bihar government for the courageous step of banning Pan Masala.”
Dr Pawan Singhal, head and neck surgeon with Sawai Man Singh hospital in Jaipur said, “While Pan Masala itself is carcinogenic, addition of nicotine makes it more addictive and carcinogenic. These pan masalas are being advertised on print media and TV channels by Bollywood celebrities and many get lured to have Pan Masala as mouth freshener.”
India has the highest prevalence of oral cancer globally, with 75, 000 to 80, 000 new cases of oral cancers in a year. A report prepared by experts of National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW) to study the harmful effects of gutka specifies India alone accounts for 86% of the total oral cancer figure across the world. What is more shocking is that chewing tobacco contributes to 90 per cent of oral cancer cases in the country.
The health experts say that Pan Masala sold in pouches had become a very serious health hazard. Easy availability and low prices makes it popular amongst youth and women. Due to its flavoured taste, easy availability and low price as well as the attractive marketing ploy by the companies, it was becoming increasingly popular among children as well.
Pan Masalas contain poisonous and carcinogenic substances and are known to cause oral and pancreatic cancer, increased blood pressure and heart rate and adverse reproductive outcomes. Taking this chance tobacco companies market it as breath fresheners, they added.
As per Global Adult Tobacco Survey, about 21 crore Indians that chew Pan Masala / Gutkha with tobacco mostly consume it along with Areca Nut. That means that they are chewing two cancer causing substances simultaneously.
- Number of Pan Masala (without tobacco) users – 4.5 crore
- Number of Betel Quid (without tobacco) users – 8.1 crore
- Number of Areca Nut (supari) users – 7.5 crore