Gutka addiction takes city by storm

Despite ban by local authorities, cigarette stalls openly selling gutka

Shamsul Islam July 23, 2017
Chewing tobacco. PHOTO: REUTERS

FAISALABAD: There is a massive surge in the sale of gutka in and around the city and huge crowds majority of which is youth, are witnessed encircling the cigarettes stalls.

The consumers of gutka claim that “it’s sweet, tasty, inexpensive, highly addictive and easily available in attractive looking packing”. While others say “it gives freshness to the mouth and infuses energy in body and mind”.

A whirlwind tour of the city reveals that almost all pan (betel leaves) and cigarette stalls are crowded with gutka seekers, however, extra ordinary crowds are always witnessed on shops in the vicinity of Narwarala Road, Dogar Chowk Gulgerg, Babar Chowk, Waris Pura Chowk, Sardar Bazar, Adam Chowk of Ghulam Muhammad Abad, Raza Abad Bazaar, Mansoor Abad main bazaar, Susssn Road, Madina Town, Chiniot bazaar, D-Ground and Canal Road. Interestingly, the government claims it has banned the sale of gutka.

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Health experts are of the view that the number of cancer patients, particularly mouth cancer, is increasing due to gutka with the each passing day. They say youths quickly become addict to gutka who use it as a ‘fad’ despite being aware of its dangerous impacts on health. They also stressed the need launching a comprehensive and massive awareness campaigns with a special focus in educational instructions.

Gutka is prepared at homes with impunity. Some small companies that somehow get permission for manufacturing of pan masala, are also involved in the manufacturing of gutka at a larger scale without any check from the authorities.

A leading gutka seller of the city, on the condition of anonymity, told the Express Tribune that he prepare gutka at home with his family members. He added that despite a ban imposed by the local administration, he still continues to sell it. “I use areca nut for preparing gutka of inferior quality with the application of different additives including heroine and opium to fulfill the demand of my customers who feel relaxed after using it,” he said.

On the other hand, gutka prepared at factories is even more injurious to health than the home-made due to cheaper katha (catechu). Animal blood, collected from slaughter houses in the city, is used to thicken the mixture. With this addition, gutka, which is already a lethal mixture, becomes more poisonous.

Recently, a team of the local Punjab Food Authority raided some gutka manufacturing units but it seems that it has failed to eliminate its sale in the city. The PFA claimed it took action against sale of guta in different areas of the city including D-Ground, Satiana Road and Samundri Road.

The Punjab Food Authority had been empowered under its Act 2011 to take action against the manufacturing and sale of gutka and it has been formally declared health hazardous.

The local PFA Deputy Director Badar Munir told The Express Tribune that the authority had conducted raids at 150 sale points of gutka and sealed 19 of them in the last four months. He said the authority has also confiscated 16,000 gutka packets and imposed fine of Rs80,000 on 20 gutka preparing units. Expressing his commitment to eliminate gutka, Badar said violators would be dealt with iron hands.

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Dr Muhammad Aslam, a senior physician of the city, said use of gutka was extremely injurious to health. “We trying to warn people about the dangers of gutka but the people have become addicted to it,” he said.

Additional Medical Superintendent, Divisional Headquarter Hospital Dr Ejaz Akhtar said users of gutka suffer from different diseases including cancers of throat, lungs, mouth and heart diseases.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2017.

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