Observed Circumvention of the Gutka Smokeless Tobacco Ban in Mumbai, India

Tob Regul Sci. 2020 Sep;6(5):331-335. doi: 10.18001/trs.6.5.3.


Objectives: Gutka is industrially manufactured in India and some Indian states have instituted bans on the sale of manufactured gutka as a public health initiative. We explored whether gutka was still available for purchase after the ban and also sought to observe methods of ban circumvention.

Methods: We visited 5 different markets at different locations separated by at least 15-20 km around the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) area, consisting of Mumbai and its satellite towns in Maharashtra, India during August- September, 2019. In each location, purveyors were queried as to the availability of gutka.

Results: Tobacco purchases were made in 5 locations/sections of MMR. At all markets, banned gutka was not displayed , and could only be purchased after requesting from the shopkeeper. Three methods of ban circumvention were observed: (1) packages marked 'export only'; (2) use of twin packaging in which pan masala and tobacco are sold together for immediate mixing to create gutka; and, (3) non-descript packaging without mention of 'gutka'.

Conclusions: Although not readily displayed in shops, gutka is readily available in MMR, despite a statewide ban in Maharashtra. Marketers have used multiple methods to circumvent the statewide gutka ban.

Keywords: India; gutka; gutka ban; regulation circumvention; smokeless tobacco.