Don’t chew on this

Published: September 3, 2010

Chewing tobacco is even more harmful than smoking and causes mouth cancer and other gum and teeth diseases.

There are many forms of Smokeless Tobacco (ST) available in the Pakistani market, the most common ones being ‘naswar’, ‘gutka’, ‘mainpuri’ and crushed tobacco taken with paan.

Harmful effects of using ST include mouth and throat cancer, cancer of the food pipe, cancer of the stomach and pancreas, increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, as well as several gum and tooth diseases.

It is a common perception  that smokeless tobacco products are less harmful than cigarettes. The fact is that the type of smokeless tobacco available in Southeast Asia is far more dangerous than smoking. An average dose of nicotine from chewing tobacco is 4.5 mg, compared with 1 to 2 mg from one cigarette.

Research conducted in Pakistan has shown that smokeless tobacco is the number two cause of cancer related deaths in both men and women.

With smoking people tend to develop cancer after a few decades but with smokeless tobacco,  cases of mouth cancer appear within a few years.

Apart from several announcements that the sale of gutka is banned in the Sindh province, our government has done very little to tackle this serious public health issue. These ST products are freely  sold all over the country, any child or adult can easily buy these products from any local shop.

There are people who are making huge profits at the cost of human lives by selling these deadly and powerful addictive substances in the form of ST.

The Ministry of Health must take appropriate measures against those who are manufacturing, distributing and selling these lethal products in Pakistan.

Newspapers and TV channels can help prevent these deaths by educating society about the serious risk associated with the usage of ST products.


Javaid Khan

The chair for the National Alliance for Tobacco Control and a professor of Medicine and Head Section of Pulmonary Diseases at the Aga Khan University in Karachi. He tweets as @javaidkhan61

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