Tobacco Related Cancers Hitting Indian Youth Hard
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Tobacco Related Cancers Hitting Indian Youth Hard

Mumbai : India | Nov 29, 2010 at 5:34 PM PST
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Ghutka Addiction is Spreading Worldwide

Indian youth who chew a mixture known as gutka are finding that what used to be an old person's disease, cancer, is hitting them hard. Mouth cancers are on a steep rise in India, much of it due to the multi-billion dollar industry of packaged mixture of tobacco, lime, dried areca nut(betel) and various flavourings. The gutka is similar to paan but does not use fresh betel so doesn't dye the mouth and teeth red.

While each package of gutka is cheap, some youth find they are chewing five or six packets a day. The practise is harmful because in addition to being addictive, gutka causes cancer. The tobacco when chewed releases cancer causing chemicals. Chewing the mixture with lime and dried betel abrades the mouth lining so cells are rapidly dividing in order to heal the mouth. (On the South Pacific Island of Yap, where most of the adults chew, they incorporate a leaf into the mixture to numb the mouth. I tried the numbing leaf, it works.)The recurring injury to the lining of the mouth permits more cancer causing chemicals to enter the bloodstream.

Indian laws prohibit the sale of tobacco products close to schools, but the laws are ignored generally. Specially mixed sweet flavoured gutka is aimed at the young market.

As well as the ingredients that the manufacturer is willing to disclose, the mystery ingredients may be composed of powerful carcinogens on their own.

"A chemical analysis of gutka highlighted in a 2008 report from the WHO found that it contains chromium, nickel, arsenic and lead as well as tobacco-related nitrosamines, all of which are known carcinogens."Bloomberg Report

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The chewing of ghutka is spreading around the world. It is carcinogenic and addictive.
BMcPherson is based in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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