Chewing tobacco packed in attractive sachets is fast replacing the traditional paan in Pakistan, its growing import from India and Indonesia belying government claims that both are banned, says a media report.
In Karachi alone, 45,000 kg of chewing tobacco, commonly known as gutka, is being marketed daily.
The government has permitted imports because the revenue from gutka sales is "too great". "In fact it is registered as an important import item from countries like India and Indonesia," The News reported from Karachi.
Imported gutka is mixed with locally produced ingredients in industrial areas and in downtown Karachi that house warehouses of importers and wholesalers. There is also spurious production in several chemical factories in the city.
"So far, no action has been taken against them because these manufacturers represent business interests and are powerful enough to resist such moves," the newspaper said.
A sample study by Karachi University's department of microbiology last year found that 32 different types of 'Gutka 28' were found to have narcotics. The study also revealed that there were 18 different types of fungus in gutka, which also contained methadone - an opium derivative.
The study quoted dental surgeon Mahmood Haider as saying that the government should monitor the marketing of gutka and its by-products on the electronic media.
"With fancy and attractive sachets of imported gutka and a variety of catchy names, its consumption is bound to increase and associating celebrities with such products would only add to its massive sale and consumption."
Unlike tobacco, the report pointed out, gutka comes without a health warning and lack of awareness of its impact on health increases consumption.