Gutka, a combination of arecanut, slaked lime, paraffin and katechu along with tobacco, is virtually poison. Promoted as a mouth freshener, this mixture is a combination of 4,000 chemicals of which at least 40 are carcinogenic compounds, say doctors.
People get addicted to it as gutka is reported to have stimulant and relaxation effects. While most consumers believe that the blend is not harmful, doctors, especially oncologists, say consumption of gutka is more harmful than any other form of tobacco.
This is because when a person chews gutka, the mixture directly enters the system through the oral cavity. In the case of smoking, 20 per cent of the harmful chemicals reach the lungs and 80 per cent is exhaled.
With more than 4,000 carcinogenic chemicals in it, gutka has compounds of nitorsamines, arsenic, benzopyrenes, several pesticides apart from chemicals closely associated with chlorine and ammonium compounds, says Jagannath Dixit, consultant, surgical oncologist at HCG Cancer Care Centre. Gutka also contains carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and hydrocarbons. Welcoming the government’s decision to ban gutka, Dr. Dixit says it is more dangerous than beedis. It can cause non-healing ulcerative lesions in parts of the oral cavity such as cheek, lips, tongue, hard palate, floor of the mouth and soft palate. It can also affect the food pipe, voice box and kidney, Dr. Dixit says.
Nanjundappa, Professor of Head and Neck Oncology at Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, says people commonly develop non-cancerous conditions like bronchial asthma, hypertension, heart disease and also stroke.
While narrowing of the blood vessels can cause gangrene, stoppage of blood supply in extreme cases can cause stroke. In women, consumption of gutka during pregnancy can result in low birth weight babies, he says.
“Overall, people can develop cancers of mouth, throat, lung and oesophagus; heart disease and related ailments. While most youngsters get easily addicted to it, women are in the habit of chewing tobacco or even inhaling snuff, which is even more harmful,” adds Dr. Nanjundappa.
Apart from these harmful effects, gutka can also cause loss of appetite, unusual sleep patterns and loss of concentration, the doctors add.