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Tobacco firms fighting fit with Trojan tactics

Napster

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Gutka is the leading cause of oral cancer in the country. The authorities recognize this and have imposed restrictions on gutka brands, including a ban on direct advertising. But a recent study shows that tobacco companies manufacturing gutka have effectively evaded the ban through surrogate advertising that their targeted consumers relate to clearly.

The study, by the NGO Salaam Bombay Foundation, found that gutka has been widely marketed as pan masala, a non-tobacco product, to get around the direct advertising ban imposed in 2004. The NGO surveyed 1,500 children in the age group 12-18 and an equal number of adults in the age group 19-50 from Lalbaug, Khetwadi, Ghatkopar, Andheri, Malad and Vashi.

The respondents were shown flashcards of three pan masala brands and asked to mention what they associated with them.

An overwhelming majority—2 % of the children and 84% of the adultssaid the products were gutka and not pan masala as advertised . The study showed that the association of a particular brand with gutka was the highest among the children.

"It clearly shows that the brand is successful in indirectly promoting its product with children ," said Devika Chadha, programme director, Salaam Bombay Foundation.

She explained how the growth of the pan masala industry was slow in the 1970s, when tobacco was not part of the concoction. But the industry grew by leaps and bounds a decade later when gutka, which contains tobacco, was introduced . The portability of the sachets added to their appeal, as did the concept of low cost of small purchases.
 
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