Smuggled Indian pan masala poses cancer threat to Africa

July 28th, 2011 - 11:24 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) African teenagers, especially school kids, are addicted to Indian ‘gutka’ and pan masala smuggled into their countries, an Indian health ministry official said here Thursday, warning of oral cancer threat in the continent.

The official, who did not wish to be named, visited countries like Uganda and Kenya and was shocked to know that the African consumers of ‘gutka’ and pan masala had no idea that they were chewing tobacco.

“We are illegally smuggling oral cancer to these countries,” the official said.

“These products are available in Africa illegally and the locals there think of them as a sweet, exotic mouth freshener from India. They don’t know that it is tobacco,” said the official.

“Just to increase profits, the Indian tobacco industry has now shifted focus to smuggling,” added the official.

As these products carry health warnings in Indian languages, the African consumers cannot read and understand them, added the official.

Africa has strict anti-tobacco and smoking laws. If these products were exported legally, the manufacturers would have to reveal the contents and pay high duty, said the official.

“These are smuggled illegally and sold secretly,” said the official.

The official said that the addiction was widespread and was affecting everybody from the villagers to educated city dwellers.

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