Betel Quid with Tobacco (Gutka)
Betel quid is a combination of betel leaf, areca nut, and slaked lime. In many countries, tobacco is also added, and the product is known as gutka, ghutka, or gutkha. Other ingredients and flavorants are also added according to local preferences and customs (e.g., sweeteners; catechu; or spices such as cardamom, saffron, cloves, anise seeds, turmeric, and mustard).1,2
Gutka is commercially available in foil packets/sachets and tins. It is consumed by placing a pinch of the mixture in the mouth between the gum and cheek and gently sucking and chewing. The excess saliva produced by chewing may be swallowed or spit out.2
- Betel quid and gutka use is reported to have stimulant and relaxation effects.2 Global estimates report up to 600 million men and women use some variety of betel quid.2
- Betel quid with or without tobacco is widely used in the Indian subcontinent (i.e., Bangladesh, India, Pakistan) as well as throughout Asia and the Pacific region (e.g., Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand).1,2,3,4
The following conditions and cancers have been associated with using betel quid/gutka.
- Oral precancerous lesions, including erythroplakia (a reddened patch in the mouth) and leukoplakia (a white patch on the mucous membranes in the mouth that cannot be wiped off).2,5
- Oral submucous fibrosis (OSF), a precancerous lesion that stiffens the soft pink tissue that lines the inside of the mouth (i.e., oral mucosa). OSF may extend into the esophageal tract. OSF is a debilitating and irreversible condition that often results in an inability to open the mouth. Treatment consists of cutting the fibrous bands in the mouth.2,5,6
- Oral cancers—predominantly carcinomas of the lip, mouth, tongue, and pharynx2,5,7
- Cancer of the esophagus2
Other health effects
- Reproductive health outcomes such as increased risk of having a low birth-weight infant6
- Nicotine addiction3
- National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Stockholm Centre of Public Health. Smokeless Tobacco Fact Sheets [PDF–1.83 MB]. Third International Conference on Smokeless Tobacco; Stockholm. September 22–25, 2002 [accessed 2011 Jan 26].
- World Health Organization. Betel-Quid and Areca-Nut Chewing and Some Areca-Nut-Derived Nitrosamines; Volume 85 [PDF–7.44 MB]. Lyon (France): World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2004 [accessed 2011 Jan 26].
- World Health Organization. Tobacco: Deadly in Any Form or Disguise
[PDF–2.58 MB]. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2006 [accessed 2011 Jan 26].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Among Students Aged 13–15 Years—Worldwide, 1999–2005. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2006;55(20):553–6 [accessed 2011 Jan 26].
- Alert for an Epidemic of Oral Cancer Due to Use of the Betel Quid Substitutes Gutkha and Pan Masala: A Review of Agents and Causative Mechanisms. Mutagenesi 2004;19(9):251–62 [accessed 2011 Jan 26].
- Smokeless Tobacco and Health in India and South Asia. Respirology 2003;8(4):419–31 [cited 2011 Jan 26].
- Epidemiology of Betel Quid Usage [PDF–43.77 KB]. Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore 2004;33(Suppl):31S–36S [accessed 2011 Jan 26].
For Further Information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
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