Written By Darshan M (Grade 10)
Have you ever wondered how a 4-rupee pan masala supplier can afford to hire expensive brand ambassadors like Ajay Devgan, SRK and Akshay Kumar? How much do Kesar and Elaichi companies earn and how big is this industry?
These companies sponsor Film Award shows, print full-page ads in newspapers, and don’t mind going to a foreign location for shooting a 30-second ad. Doing all this requires money and all these brands can easily afford this because India’s pan masala industry is worth Rs. 41,000 Cr! To put things into perspective India’s chocolate market is valued at 16,000 Cr and our Biscuit market is worth 37,000 Cr. Big actors might charge around 10 Cr for an Ad for a 41,000 Cr industry. This sum is only 0.02%. India leads the world in the exports of pan masala and our biggest importer is the UAE. In total, India’s tobacco industry employs 4.5 Cr people.
The WHO says that 10 Cr people die of tobacco-related cancer, which will increase to 100 Cr in the 21st century. But still, how is this 41,000 Cr industry growing? Because they are geniuses at marketing. After 2011, all states banned the sale of pan masala with tobacco and you also cannot promote tobacco in India. So what did the companies do? They eliminated tobacco from the pan masala. Pan masala is just a mixture of pan and other ingredients, and this is sold as a food item. The FSSAI regulates the pan masala industry which means it is not a product that contains tobacco. The secret is that when you buy the pan masala packet, by default the shopkeeper gives you a small packet that supplies mouth cancer.
Running away from responsibilities is something pan masala companies do well because technically their product doesn’t contain tobacco. Hiding behind this, big stars agree to promote these brands. Of course, if they are getting 5-10 Cr who will not take it?
People know that this is bad for them and they know that these stars do not say the full truth in the ads. They also know that if they get affected by cancer, they cannot afford the treatment. To date, official COVID deaths in India are 5 Lakh but tuberculosis can take 5 lakh lives in a year. 1/3rd of global cases are recorded from India. Like COVID, tuberculosis also spreads through droplets when an infected person spits out pan masala. These droplets get exposed to air.
A person chewing pan masala on average spits 20-30 times every 10 minutes. If he is an auto driver who travels all across the city, and if he is infected, he can spread TB across the city. He can get it to your house without it being your fault.
Indian railway is spending 1,200 Cr and gallons of water to clean stains caused by people spitting. The spitting person has no shame, does the industry have some shame? Can this 41,000 Cr industry spend 0.01% of its total turnover to clean these dirty stains?
Will you pay those people who spit on your country? Will you support an industry that doesn’t clean its own mess? Will you be excited for those actors’ films who have no idea that their actions cause cancer and tuberculosis in India?
Featured Image Courtesy – Curly Tales