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‘Gutkha’ ban is a boon to public health, says WHO study

Our Bureau Ahmedabad | Updated on December 16, 2014 Published on December 16, 2014

Reduced availability, decrease in consumption positive outcome

As fortunes of tobacco companies slide with the Government tightening screws, a World Health Organisation (WHO) study has hailed the ban on Gutkha, saying the move will go a long way towards improving health.

General consensus

There are strong indications that State laws banning Gutkha are having a positive impact with reduced product availability and a decrease in consumption, the study conducted by WHO Country Office for India in collaboration with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said on Tuesday.

The study conducted across Gujarat, Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and the National Capital Region (NCR) revealed popular support (92 per cent) for a ban on Gutkha and an almost universal agreement (99 per cent) that a ban is good for the health of India’s youth.

“These findings have a strong message that regulatory mechanisms are effective and can have a positive impact on the consumption pattern,” said Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India.

Of the respondents who continue to use pre-packaged Gutkha, 49 per cent reported they consumed less since the ban.

Flipside

However, Pradeep Krishnatray, Director, Research and Strategic Planning at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Communications Programs, said most of the respondents are purchasing tobacco and mixing it with a packet of paan masala with zarda. “This innovation has adversely affected the very purpose and consequent impact of the ban.”

Expressing concern that smokeless tobacco use continues to be viewed as culturally acceptable, Menabde said more needs to be done to support people to successfully quit using tobacco.

In each State, between 41 and 88 per cent of quitters said they did so because of the ban and the increased cost of pre-packaged Gutkha. Pre-packaged Gutkha is hardly displayed now on retail outlets.

More than a quarter of tobacco product retailers interviewed reported that they had been approached by suppliers to continue selling pre-packaged Gutkha post the ban.

Surveys were conducted with 1,001 current and former Gutkha users and 458 tobacco product retailers to study effect of the ban on consumer use and product availability.

Published on December 16, 2014
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