CHAKWAL, Oct 26: Having his tiny shop (called Khoka in local parlance) in front of General Post Office in Chakwal, Mohammad Aqeel has been selling Paan for the last sixteen years. He opens his shop at 8am and shuts it at 12 midnight.
In normal days he sells around 2,000 sachets of Paan but when Eid comes his sale also gets a sudden boost as even those who are not addicts to Paan chew it on this occasion.
The price of a Paan consisting of tobacco is Rs10 while he sells Paan of fragrance or sweet Paan at the cost of Rs.
“I wait for such days when I can earn more than usual”, Aqeel tells Dawn while making a packet of tobacco Paan.
According to him, there are twenty kinds of Paans available at his shop while around 60 pan shops are operating in Chakwal city.
Aqeel admits that Pan can spoil teeth but he is not ready to accept that it also causes fatal diseases like mouth and throat cancer.
“If a person does not spit out Paan and takes it down to his abandon he is liable to be caught in disease”, he justifies. He also claims that many doctors, civil servants and other noted people are among his customers.
His one customer Khizar Sultan eats up 30 to 32 Paans daily while he also claims that some of his customers chew 80 Paans daily.
“I have become addicted to it and cannot stop it”, says Salman Haider, a young man who runs a rickshaw to earn bread and butter for his family. “I have been eating Pan since last twelve years and now I find it hard to quit this habit”, says Ghulam Abbas another addict.
The Paan chewers and sellers may have many points to defend Paan chewing but the fact is that more than 1.6 million Pakistanis are caught in mouth cancer and chewing tobacco, and Chhalia Paan is one of the major factors of this fatal disease.
According to a report, Pakistanis eat more than $70 million Paans each year causing a huge burden on national economy as Pakistan imports Chhalia from other countries like Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh Malaysia, Myanmar and African countries.
The more pathetic aspect is that health department is doing nothing to curb this menace.