Gutka ban has led to decrease in consumption in Maharashtra, reveals WHO study

Reportedly, more than half of gutka users have tried to stop since ban came into place

Findings specific to the state of Maharashtra from a research study undertaken by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP) and Centre for Communication and Change-India (CCC-I), New Delhi with support from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Institute for Global Tobacco Control (IGTC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Office for India was released at Tata Memorial Hospital today.

The study aimed to understand the impact of state laws that ban the sale and distribution of gutka. The study was conducted in eight states: Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The report was released by Dr HS Kamble, IAS, Commissioner of Food and Drugs Administration, Maharashtra. Other dignitaries present at the event were Dr RA Badwe, Director, Tata Memorial Centre and Dr Pradeep Krishnatray, Director, Center for Communication and Change-India, JHSPH.

In Maharashtra, surveys were conducted in the districts of Thane and Mumbai with current and former gutka users and tobacco product retailers to determine the impact and effectiveness of the gutka ban. In addition, observations of 60 retail environments and in-depth interviews with government officials, enforcement officials and citizens working with civil society groups were conducted to find out different stakeholders’ reaction to the ban.

Considering the harmful effects of gutka and paan masala, the Maharashtra government disallowed the sale, manufacture, distribution and storage of gutka from July 19, 2012. Of the respondents who continue to use pre-packaged gutka, a considerable proportion – about 83 per cent — reported that they consume less since the ban. A panel discussion on ‘Challenges in effective implementations of gutka ban and the way forward’ was also conducted during the event comprising panelists Dr Kamble and Dr Badwe.

The study also showed that there is a universal agreement that gutka ban is good for the health of the youth in the country with 99 per cent responding affirmatively in support of the ban. Of the respondents who quit since ban, more than half — 51 per cent — reported to attempting to stop using gutka after the ban came into place. Fifty three per cent of respondents agreed that gutka bans will help people to quit.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) India report-2009-10, current smokeless tobacco users comprise 28 per cent of the total adult population of Maharashtra. About 35 per cent of males and 19 per cent of females above 15 years of age, fall in the current user category.

Recommendations to improve the current situation included strengthening enforcement mechanisms to ensure complete compliance of the ban. Policy measures to curb the sale and purchase of all other smokeless tobacco products including products that can be bought separately and mixed to be consumed as gutka or a product similar to gutka was also recommended.

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