LAHORE: The traders of Lahore associated to the paan business have decided to move court against the Punjab Food Authority’s decision of imposing a ban on the sale of betel nuts, saying that it was an act to destroy a centuries-old tradition of the sub-continent.
They have decided to move court after the PFA’s scientific panel on Saturday demanded to immediately stop the production and sale of betel nut at paan shops and general stores. The PFA panel was of the view that betel nuts may cause mouth, throat, oral and stomach cancer as well as tooth decay. The panellist said that a large number of people especially youngsters were suffering from oral submucous fibrosis (OSF) that leads to the loss of jaw movement.
However, the traders of Lahore’s Paan Mandi have rejected the cautions of the PFA’s panel and blamed that they had some other motives that they wanted to attain by imposing the ban on betel nuts. They said that if it was as hazardous as the authorities have claimed, then why was it not banned in other provinces of the country.
A trader of betel nuts at the Paan Mandi, Ismail Khan, 85, who was associated to the business since he migrated to Lahore from India in 1947, told Pakistan Today that he was also habitual of chewing the betel nut, but he was never struck by any disease. He said that chewing paan was a centuries-old tradition of the sub-continent and the decision of banning it will not only affect the traders, but will also destroy the tradition.
Waheed Ali, 45, a paan seller and wholesale dealer of paan products said that he had invested a huge amount in the business as he had no experience of any other business. He told Pakistan Today that chewing pan itself was not injurious, but its excessive use can definitely be harmful.
“Not just excessive use of paan, but the excessive use of everything is injurious to health,” he said while adding that the major reason behind banning such products was because the government wanted to decrease the level of imports from India.
A source in the Federal Board of Revenue while speaking to Pakistan Today said that Pakistani traders import betel nuts from India and Indonesia worth over 100 million dollars. They said that prior to this decision of the PFA, the FBR had levied duties to reduce the import of betel nuts, betel leaves and many other products that are being imported to Pakistan.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Medical Association has fully endorsed the PFA’s decision. PMA General Secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad said that betel nuts were the major cause of mouth and oral cancer. He said that around 120 brands were easily available in Pakistan and these were prepared with artificial colours and artificial sugar, hence it was proven that such a mixture could easily cause diseases like cancer.
PFA spokesperson, Hafiz Qaiser told Pakistan Today that PFA itself did not ban the sale of this product, but the decision was made on the recommendation of scientists and medics, and the provincial food authority was interested in protecting the health of the citizens.