Mumbai : Two months after the gutka ban was imposed in Maharashtra, it has been observed that the market uptake of gutka and pan masala has fallen by about 40% in the city.

The once ubiquitous gutka and pan masala packets that tempted passerbys are now being stashed away by pan-shopkeepers to avoid being busted by the police who are now on a vigilant watch.

 According to the findings of ‘Voice of Tobacco Victims’, a campaign by Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health in collaboration with Tata Memorial hospital, pan- shopkeepers are now selling these products only to trusted customers in bulk as they don’t trust random strangers who could be police informants. A gutka addict can now buy his favourite product only in bulk (a packet of 50-75 pouches) from a pan shop he frequents.

 The Mumbai police have reportedly started paying slum children to be informants by rewarding them Rs.1000 after a successful raid on a pan shop having gutka stocks. In case that shop is caught red-handed, an additional Rs.250 is paid, but they are now also willing to pay larger unofficial amounts to their sources ranging from Rs.5,000 to Rs.15,000.

 This aggressive police crackdown has led to 10-15% of shopkeepers not stocking gutka anymore. The prices of major gutka and pan masala brands has gone up which has discouraged school going children from experimenting with these products.

 The ban has therefore resulted in gutka and pan masala products not being easily available in the market. Diehard gutka addicts are also finding it an inconvenient and costly habit to maintain, and if such stringent measures are followed in the future, these products’ street availability could become as rare as charas and ganja. Several counterfeit products are now being distributed in the city after the ban that are of inferior quality.

 Maharashtra is the only state in India that has banned pan per se as it contains harmful carcinogenic substances such as areca nuts. The Mumbai police have managed to capture gutka and pan masala worth Rs.85 crores in the past two months. The current supplies in the city are reportedly coming from Gujarat despite the ban in that state.

 KICKING THE HABIT UNDERGROUND

  • A gutka addict can now buy his favourite product only in bulk (a packet of 50-75 pouches) from a pan shop he frequents.
  • Mumbai police have reportedly started paying slum children to be informants by rewarding them Rs.1000 after a successful raid on a pan shop having gutka stocks. In case that shop is caught red-handed, an additional Rs.250 is paid, but they are now also willing to pay larger unofficial amounts to their sources ranging from Rs.5,000 to Rs.15,000.
  • This aggressive police crackdown has led to 10-15% of shopkeepers not stocking gutka anymore. Consequently, the prices of major gutka and pan masala brands have gone up which has discouraged school going children from experimenting with these products.

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