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18 Aug 2012

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s decision to ban gutkha has found widespread support among the medical community, particularly oncologists. They have lauded the initiatives but warned that effective implementation is as important to ensure that the ban shows results.

Several oncologists over the years have been suggesting that a ban on tobacco–related products is a must to win the war against cancer, as it is one of the preventable causes of the disease that kills millions every year.

"This is a step in the right direction. The results however will not be seen immediately," said medical oncologist, Dr SS Alurkar.

"But 10 years later, we will see a reduction in number of cancer cases on account of ban on gutkha," said Alurkar, adding that eight out of 10 cases of head and neck cancer involve gutkha consumers. "This ban may reduce push this number to five but more importantly, children will not be falling prey to this bad habit," said Alurkar.

As per Dr Shiling Shukla who is director of Gujarat Cancer Research Institute, this ban on sale of gutkha will be useful in the fight against cancer. "The catchword is effective implementation. If this happens, we will see reduction in cases of mouth and other cancers that are caused by consumption of gutkha," said Shukla. About 10 lakh new cases of cancer are reported in the country every year, of which 40% are due to tobacco.

"A study shows that 50% of those addicted to tobacco started consumption of tobacco before age of 15. A ban would mean gutkha will not be easily available to adolescents, thus preventing them from getting addicted," said Shukla. City–based radiation oncologist, Dr Vivek Bansal agrees with Shukla and Alurkar. Effective implementation will certainly reduce prevalence of cancer and mortality due to the disease, too.

"That doesn’t mean tobacco will not be consumed in other forms. Given that highest percentage of tobacco consumption happens as gutkha, it (the ban) is indeed a welcome step," said Bansal.

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