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India- A country painted in red: Paan masala spits

paan masala chewing and spitting
A common sight throughout India. (Illustrations: Kartikeya and Sachin)

It’s no big deal if this headline would have raised a few eyebrows-especially those of paan masala enthusiasts and manufacturers-by now. Why challenge the existence of a product which is endorsed by the top celebrities of a country? Trust me, this is a grave issue which concerns the health and hygiene of a nation. And not a small nation by any means.

In every nook and corner of this country, we have a human shooting machine, which processes this packed paan masala, and targets the road or any empty wall and shoots from his mouth. Every fourth person in this part of the world indulges in this habit. But in today’s article, my focus won’t be on the oral cancer cases from India that has a share of 86 per cent of the world’s cases. What worries me, and every distressed citizen is the tonnes of paan waste that is spit all over public places by 300 million inconsiderate hard-working yet escapist individuals.

A PAAN India issue

It won’t be sensible to solely blame these people. They will eat anything that tastes like real paan, smells like a choked flower and distracts their brains from their monotonous lives. Most of the people chewing this product belong to the class involved with the most work-intensive, and sometimes, menial jobs. Though the amount of money they spend on this product might not be more than a fraction of what they earn. But it is these very people who line up at hospitals at a very young age. Tobacco usage as such hampers the reproductive system and what not. Many tobacco users die young, while the remaining ones spend their old age in pain. But within their lifetime, they spoil the lives of others too. Every time they spit on walls and streets, they create new breeding grounds for flies, mosquitoes and a bunch of diseases.

Banning tobacco is not the only solution. Tobacco has not been banned throughout India. The production of market-manufactured paan masala, or gutka was banned in Punjab recently, but it is still very much alive in Delhi, the capital city, which is on the way to becoming the world’s most populous city, and has more live tobacco shooting guns than anywhere else in the world. The country’s biggest film stars are endorsing it. Tobacco must be banned for all good. But even while it’s there, its existence should not coincide with the hygiene standards of the country.

Some recent findings

In August 2010, Brent Council reported that paan stains have already painted Wembley red. London, like most big cities of the world, is home to many people of Indian origin.

id the amount of paan being spat on the streets of Wembley has dramatically increased. When it dries, the mixture leaves a dark red, blood-like stain which is difficult and costly to remove.

The council is planning an education campaign about the problems of paan spitting, which carries an £80 fine.

More than 500 people, including community leaders, police officers, health experts and business owners attended a conference in December last year to discuss the growing problem.

Wembley, which is a major area in the borough, is replete with streets stained by ‘paan’ spittle. The Brent council spends £20,000 every year to clean the stains left behind by consumers of ‘paan’. The situation is quite similar in Connaught Place

In August 2014,  a ban (not for the first time) was imposed on tobacco smoking and spitting. No penalty was announced since then, and people have been smoking and spitting to glory as always.

Let’s at least at least discourage the people in our circle to stop spitting generally, and stop consuming tobacco if possible.





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