The Delhi government has written to Bollywood actors Ajay Devgan, Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Govinda, Arbaaz Khan and Sunny Leone, urging them not to endorse pan masala products as they contain areca nuts, a potential cancer causing agent.
The Delhi government has also asked the actors to join its anti-tobacco campaign to save the lives of lakhs of people who die due to oral cancer every year.
“You are often seen on TV and other media advertising pan masala products. Even if these pan masalas do not contain tobacco or nicotine, they surely contain areca nuts (supari) and now there are a lot of scientific evidences which prove that supari causes cancer.
“Moreover, some of these pan masala advertisements are surrogate advertisements of tobacco products which the manufacturing companies try to promote,” said Dr S K Arora, Additional Director (Health), Delhi government, in his letters.
Arora said tobacco use among Indian women is showing an increasing trend as compared to the rest of the world and that these advertisements, apart from e-cigarettes and hookah smoking, are playing a major role in it.
“You are the role model for youngsters, they watch you and your lifestyle and habits and try to adopt it. These advertisements attract the vulnerable population, especially, children and females very strategically and are directly and indirectly responsible for the increasing trends of tobacco use among youngsters and females in India.
“I humbly request you to not participate in pan masala or any other similar advertisements which are harming our society especially the younger generations. Rather, I request you to join us in anti-tobacco campaign to save lakhs of preventable deaths,” Arora said in the letter.
According to experts, areca nuts, the main ingredient in pan masala, is in the league of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol when it comes to addictive properties and also lead to a high number of cases of submucous fibrosis, which can easily turn cancerous.
The Delhi government has already lodged FIRs against a few tobacco companies over surrogate tobacco advertisements.
The government, which is keen to making Delhi tobacco free, has also launched a series of initiatives including observing dry day for tobacco on the last day of every month and tobacco-free Delhi initiative in health, education, transport and police departments.
It regularly conducts various awareness and enforcement drives so that violations under Tobacco Control Act can be minimised.
The Delhi government has already banned sale, purchase and storage of chewable tobacco products but has not been able to implement it because of court cases filed by some tobacco manufacturers which are still pending. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for February 18.
According to data issued by the National Cancer Registry Programme of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), there are 1,300 cancer deaths daily and close to 5 lakh every year.
Tobacco use alone accounts for about 40 per cent of all cancers, 90 per cent of oral cancers and 30 per cent of tuberculosis in India.
About 275 million Indians (35 per cent of adult population and 14.1 per cent of children aged 13-15 years) are tobacco users, mainly smokeless tobacco, according to a paper by Paul E Goss of Harvard Medical School, Boston, and others.