An open letter to Mr. James Bond for promoting Pan Masala


Dear Mr. Brosnan,

I am your ardent admirer. I work as a cancer surgeon in India’s premier cancer centre – I am shocked that you decided to promote a flavoured areca nut product in India. I have 10 questions to ask from you.

They are as follows:

  1. Do you know that Pan Masala (flavoured areca nut or Supari or betel nut) is a carcinogen? Areca Nut is a confirmed cancer causing substance as per the International Agency for Research on Cancer, WHO, France. In an ongoing legal matter in Supreme Court of India, Ministry of Health has submitted a voluminous report on health hazards of areca nut.
  2. Pan Masala has been proven to be a harmful substance by several reputed Indian laboratories and research Institutions. Based on that, Food Safety regulation in India mandates every Pan Masala packet to be sold with a warning that – Pan Masala chewing is injurious to health. Why did you endorse a harmful product?
  3. As per the Indian law, every advertisement of Pan Masala must have a statutory warning that it is a harmful substance. Those warnings were deceptively made inconspicuous and unreadable in your advertisement. Did you realize how people are being cheated?
  4. In India, Pan Masala is an established surrogate of Smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco). Nearly 200 million Indians chew tobacco making India the mouth cancer capital of the world. Why did you choose to promote oral cancer?
  5. You are known for your leadership role in environmental issues. Have you ever seen red blotches on walls/stairs/toilets of India as a consequence of incessant spitting by pan masala and tobacco chewers? Apart from being a nuisance, it promotes Tuberculosis, Influenza etc. Do you approve a product that is leading to serious environmental degradation? Come and join our Clean India Campaign!
  6. You are very respected and passionate activists addressing issues in an effort to protect the planet and the species that inhabit it. Do you know that tobacco addiction is a disease that kills every third user prematurely? Do you know that 1 million Indians die every year because of tobacco? Do you know that 1 billion people in the world are estimated to die of tobacco in this century? Why don’t you use your charisma for tobacco control?
  7. You are well known for taking up issues related to wellbeing of children. Do you know that Pan Masala is very popular in youngsters because of its cheapness, packaging, ease of access, shrewd marketing etc? This leads to a condition called Lock Jaw or submucous fibrosis wherein child has burning sensation in their mouth and inability to open the mouth. Many of them turn into cancer after 5 to 7 years of hellish life.
  8. You have been very active in promoting aspects related to wellbeing of Women around the world. Do you know that consumption of areca nut adversely affects the reproductive health of the pregnant women and even their unborn child? Why don’t you reach out to millions of women globally who continue to chew areca nut during their pregnancy? It is very popular in south and south East Asia.
  9. Do you know that areca nut is a psycho active substance that leads to addiction? Your promotional video must have caused many youths to take up this addiction that they will find difficult to quit subsequently.
  10. Indian government recognizes tobacco industry’s sinister design to specifically target vulnerable children as their new consumers. As per the amended Juvenile Justice Act 2015, passed by Parliament – “It is an offence against a child, if a person gives or causes to be given, to any child any tobacco products”. This is punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and also liable to a fine which may extend up to one lakh rupees. Will James bond want to break this law by promoting surrogate of tobacco?

Sir, you have witnessed the trauma of cancer very closely in your own family. Let me quote you – “When your partner gets cancer, then life changes. Your timetable and reference for your normal routines and the way you view life, all this changes. Because you’re dealing with death. You’re dealing with the possibility of death and dying.”

Ian Fleming had once said – “I did not intend for Bond to be likable. He is a blunt instrument in the hands of government. He has got vices and few perceptible virtues.” Dear James Bond, while we appreciate you taking on bad guys, please don’t become the instrument of the corporate greed.

May I sincerely urge you to come forth to create awareness regarding perils of areca nut chewing? May I humbly plead you to consider becoming global brand ambassador to reduce tobacco use? This will make James Bond a true hero – Licensed to save the future generations!

Your fan forever,

Prof. Pankaj Chaturvedi
Tata Memorial Hospital
Parel, Mumbai – 400 012

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