Will Banning ‘Gutka’ Really Reduce Mouth & Throat Cancer?

In April 2012, the Madhya Pradesh government’ banned Gutka. This ban was brought into effect aiming to check the rising levels of mouth, throat and stomach cancers that are likely due to Gutka use. Here is what we think about the ban.

We release this response, concerned that this positive move by the Government may not succeed in reducing cancer, especially if Gutka users are not given adequate support to overcome their addiction. Suddenly removing Gutka may result Gutka users switching to cigarettes, beedis, and other tobacco products to satisfy their cravings.

Our Statement

Packets of Gutka

Firstly, Cancer Awakens congratulates the Government of Madhya Pradesh for being the first state to implement this ban. We see this as a positive influence to the overall reduction of cancer in India and the world.

At the same time, we see this issue from two perspectives simultaneously. The first perspective is of social health, which is the Government’s perspective. They need to make decisions that are beneficial to large groups of people.

The other equally important perspective is the individual perspective. Individuals who are addicted to Gutka need to overcome this addiction and replace it with a healthier pattern of behaviour. Recovery from addiction is a difficult process that demands a lot of courage from the individual, and he or she requires support from family, friends and professionals to succeed.

Keeping these two perspectives in mind, Cancer Awakens believes that the ban on Gutka will add stress to the citizens of MP who are currently addicted to Gutka, without giving them adequate support to create a healthier lifestyle.

Some suggestions to deal with this sudden change

Suggestions to Gutka users

At an individual level, Gutka users will feel the withdrawal effects of tobacco, and may switch to other tobacco products to satisfy their cravings. While the Gutka ban is a forced change, this could be a great opportunity for you to bring in a positive lifestyle change. Here are some suggestions for you

  1. If accessible to you, you will benefit from meeting with a trained professional, like a counsellor or psychologist, who specializes in supporting de-addiction.
  2. If affordable, there are several holistic health resorts (eg: Jindal’s Nature Cure) which can help you to detoxify your system and overcome the addiction.
  3. There may be many friends who are also Gutka users. Forming a group that can support each other to quit is a scientifically proven way to improve your chances of making a positive change.

Suggestions to family of Gutka users

If someone in your family is a Gutka user, you can offer psychological support by way of empathizing with this sudden change in lifestyle. Give them hope and help them find a good counsellor / de-addiction expert to navigate this change. Ask the counsellor how you can support at home. There will be many things that you can do to help.

Suggestions to Government

The Madhya Pradesh government could start an awareness and de-addiction support program on quitting Gutka, deployed through their primary health centres. This program must educate the general public about the benefits and challenges of quitting. A group of professionals trained in conducting de-addiction programs could travel to PHCs to provide on-ground support to people who are attempting to overcome the addiction. Many established programs like the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous are available to learn from.

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