Gutka or Gutkha (Hindi: गुटखा, Gujarati: ગુટખા, Punjabi: ਗੁਟਖਾ, Urdu: گٹکھا) is a preparation of crushed areca nut (also called betel nut), tobacco, catechu, paraffin, slaked lime and sweet or savory flavorings. It is manufactured in India and exported to a few other countries. A mild stimulant, it is sold across India in small, individual-sized packets that cost between 2 and 10 rupees per packet. It is consumed much like chewing tobacco, it is considered responsible for oral cancer and other severe negative health effects.
Gutkha is a powdery, granular, light brownish to white substance. Within moments of chewing mixing with saliva, the gutkha begins to dissolve and turn deep red in color. It may impart upon its user a "buzz" somewhat more intense than that of tobacco chewing, snuffing and smoking.
Highly addictive and a known carcinogen, gutkha is the subject of much controversy in India. Many states have sought to curb its immense popularity by taxing sales of gutkha heavily or by banning it outright.
Excessive gutkha use can eventually lead to loss of appetite, promote unusual sleep patterns, and loss of concentration along with other tobacco-related problems. A gutkha user can easily be identified by prominently stained teeth ranging from dirty yellowish-orange to reddish-black. The stains are difficult to remove by normal brushing and usually need the attention of a dentist. After gutkha is consumed, it is generally spat onto a wall or at the ground, causing an unsightly red stain that is quite resistant to the elements. Some building owners have taken to combating this unpleasantness by painting murals of idols on their walls, with the idea that gutkha chewers would not spit on an idol.
It is used by millions of adults and children. Some packaging does not mention tobacco as an ingredient, some are chocolate-flavored, and some are marketed as breath fresheners.
Gutkha use can begin at a very young age. Due to its often flavorful taste, easy availability and cheapness, it is popular with poor children, who can exhibit precancerous lesions at a very early age as a result. Symptoms of cancer often appear by high school or college age. Social custom does not permit children in India to smoke cigarettes, so gutkha use, being all but invisible to others, is the method of choice. Gutkha is also used by many as an alternative to cigarettes and is claimed to curb the need to smoke, but eventually becomes another habit tough to quit. Gutkha also causes swallowing problems during night time sleeping leading to dry throat and restless sleep. This may eventually lead to throat cancer in users.
In 2008, about 5 million children under 15 were addicted to gutkha. A survey in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh found precursors of mouth cancers in 16% of the children.  According to the 2009-2010 survey by Global Adult Tobacco Survey, 53.5% of Indians use tobacco products. Tobacco and gutka chewing makes up the majority of those figures with 48.07% of Indians using them, while bidi and cigarette smokers make up 8.4% and 5.9% of the population respectively. The percentage of male and female tobacco and gutka chewers is 66.2% and 40% respectively.
Many states of India have banned the sale, manufacture, distribution and storage of gutka and all its variants. As of May 2013, gutka is banned in 24 states and 3 union territories. Gutka is banned under the provision to ban any food product containing harmful adulterants in the centrally enacted Food Safety and Regulation (Prohibition) Act 2011. The Act allows these products to be banned for a year and it can be extended every year before it lapses, resulting in a pseudo permanent ban. The ban is enforced by the state public health ministry, the state Food and Drug Administration and the local police. Enforcement of the law is generally lax and many shops still sell gutka, although it may not be displayed. Enforcemnent is stricter in some regions like Mumbai and Delhi, but illegal sale of gutka still occurs.
Offenders can be fined 200 (US$3.20) according to the Control of Tobacco Products Act (COTPA). The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), under which the ban has been regulated, said offenders can face six months to three years in jail. The law has provisions of imposing fines up to 25000 on selling of products that are injurious to health.
|State||Date of Ban||Remarks|
|Andaman and Nicobar||1 November 2012|||
|Andhra Pradesh||9 January 2013|||
|Bihar||30 May 2012||The law was upheld by the Patna High Court.|
|Chhattisgarh||24 July 2012|||
|Delhi||11 September 2012||On 12 October 2012, the Delhi High Court refused to lift ban in response to a plea by a city-based gutka manufacturer.|
|Goa||2 October 2005|||
|Gujarat||11 September 2012||100% export-oriented units are exempt from the ban.|
|Himachal Pradesh||13 July 2012|||
|Haryana||15 August 2012|||
|Jharkhand||24 July 2012|||
|Kerala||25 May 2012||On 2 August 2012, Kerala High Court declined to stay the ban.|
|Karnataka||31 May 2013|||
|Madhya Pradesh||1 April 2012||The law was upheld by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.|
|Maharashtra||20 July 2012||Previous bans on gutka on 1 August 2002 and again in 2008 were overturned by the Supreme Court on the grounds of unfair trade practice. The most recent ban was upheld by the Bombay High Court on 15 September 2012.|
|Odisha||1 January 2013|||
|Punjab||26 August 2012|||
|Rajasthan||18 July 2012|||
|Sikkim||17 September 2012|||
|Tamil Nadu||8 May 2013|||
|Uttar Pradesh||1 April 2013|||
|Uttarakhand||1 January 2013|||
|West Bengal||1 May 2013|||
Unlike alcohol and tobacco products, there is no ban on advertisement of gutka. Often tobacco companies advertise paan masala as gutka in order to skirt the ban on advertising tobacco products. Surrogate advertisements use images of a gutka packet instead of a pan masala.
According to the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations, 2011 of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, misleading advertisement of such products invites a fine of 1,000000.
Gutka is banned in some regions of Pakistan.
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