The Indian metropolis of Kolkata is grappling with a unique problem with its landmark Howrah bridge – the structure is about to collapse because of the highly corrosive gutkha spit people who use the bridge spit onto it.
Citizens of the city of Kolkata have united in an anti-spitting campaign to stop gutkha users from spitting on the steel structure.
Gutkha is a tobacco product popular with millions of Indians and its trademark red-brown stains can be seen all over the city of Kolkata. Gutkha is made from crushed betel nut, tobacco, lime, paraffin, and other mystery chemicals that vary from brand to brand but are almost always carcinogenic in origin.
India has the world’s highest incidence of oral cancer and gutkha use is often blamed as the main contributor to this. Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states banned the substance earlier in January, bringing the total number of states where the product is banned to 17.
The other 11 states where gutkha use is still permitted are believed to contribute to a thriving black market in the states where it is banned. Gutkha is used by every age group, from children to the elderly. Indian children are often initially attracted to the substance, which is very cheap to buy and comes in small sachets, because some of them are flavored with fruit and taste sweet.