Written By: Jason: Wednesday, 1 December 2010

As smoking hits more barriers, both legal and social, all around the world, crafty tobacco pushers are finding newer ways to sell tobacco without the smoke. Nationally, we've seen an increased presence in the sales of non-smoke-able items such as sticks, snus and lozenges but elsewhere, there are even more smokeless options...which could soon find a home in the U.S.

India has the highest amount of oral cancers in the world. Medical experts are pointing there fingers at a local smokeless tobacco product known as Gutka. Gutka is a blend of tobacco and spices, that when chewed has a consistency similar to gravel. The hard, rough texture lightly cuts and scrapes your tongue and gums and nicotine seeps in through those cuts. The effect is a quick stimulating sensation similar to regular chewing tobacco but faster.

Street vendors (known as "Gutka Barons") throughout India sell Gutka in brightly colored, rectangular pouches. The packaging, ease of acquisition, average price of 2¢ and lax enforcement of tobacco sales laws have made Gutka a popular item amongst kids. While the law technically prohibits Gutka Barons from selling within 100 yards of any school, usage among kids has increased nonetheless. In fact, a recent survey determined that the number of teen tobacco chewers in India has doubled from a decade ago.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the number of teen male tobacco users has risen from 3.4% to 4.4% - a curious statistic given the increased presence of smokeless tobacco in the country. Marlboro publicly stated (October 2010) that sales of smokeless tobacco have exceeded expectations and shipment quantities have been increased domestically.

While Gutka may not be something any of us will see in U.S. convenience stores anytime soon, one thing to consider is who makes Gutka in India. Godfrey Philips India Ltd., one of the major tobacco companies in India, makes and sells a product called Pan Masala (a mainstream, widely accessible version of Gutka found in stores rather than street vendor kiosks). Godfrey Philips India Ltd. Is 25% owned by Philip Morris - a company who is currently seeing an increase in sales of smokeless tobacco in the U.S.

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