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ICMR may urge govt to give cancer warnings on paan masala packets

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is mulling to write to Union Health Minister JP Nadda, urging him to direct paan masala manufacturers to use cancer warning messages on their packaging. 

Manufacturers started promoting the sale of paan masalas, which is culturally accepted in the country, after the government banned the sale of gutka.

“Paan masala manufacturers claim that the product does not cause cancer, which is wrong as one of the important constituent of paan masala is areca nut (supari), which is carcinogenic. It has been clinically proved,” said Ravi Mehrotra, director at the Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology under ICMR.

“The biggest agent of cancer in India is smokeless tobacco and the time has come to put a blanket ban on these products. About 79% of all smokeless tobacco products are produced in India and nearby countries in South Asia and of it almost 80% are consumed here, which is a major problem that needs to be addressed with utmost priority,” Mehrotra said.

“We are preparing a report, which will be submitted to the Health Ministry. We will urge the ministry to take necessary action in this regard. Through the report, we will apprise the Health Minister about various chewing tobacco items such as zarda, paan masala, supari and khaini are the agents of cancer and its advertising should be stopped,” he said.

“Since arecoline, the primary psychoactive ingredient, contributes to histologic changes in the oral mucosa, we will urge the minister to launch an awareness campaign to discourage the use of chewing tobacco,” Mehrotra said.

Asserting that cancer has become an epidemic in the North-east India, AIIMS director MC Mishra said, “In our country only 20% come early for screening, of which 80% get cured. Eighty per cent patients come at a later stage, of which only 20% cases are curable, which is not the case in developed countries. In the the US and European nations, 80% come early, so they get screened at an earlier stage and get cured.”
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