Unless you’re 21 years old you can’t buy tobacco in Chicago, and the City has now outlawed the use of chewing tobacco at sporting events. But what about other products made for chewing that contain tobacco, like tobacco paan and tobacco masala? Both products are readily available on Devon Avenue, and both are as dangerous o health as chewing tobacco.
Paan and masala are dry mixtures of betel leaf, a known carcinogen, with nuts, herbs, and spices, meant to be chewed. Tobacco is sometimes added. There’s been a lot of research over the years on health effects from regular use of both products, especially those containing tobacco. It’s been well-documented that the effects range from anemia to oral cancers.
Some research indicates that the health effect of chewing either product is the same even when tobacco is not one of the ingredients. Many states in India ban or restrict their use for both health and sanitary reasons, since the products are spit out or swallowed after chewing.
It’s not clear if tobacco paan and tobacco masala are banned under Chicago’s new ordinance, but it might not be a bad idea for the City Council to consider doing so, or at least consider raising the age to buy these products to 21.