“Out of the 24 brands of toothpastes studied in 2011, seven brands – Colgate Herbal, Himalaya, Neem paste, Neem Tulsi, RA Thermoseal, Sensoform and Stoline – were found to contain nicotine,” said Professor S. S. Agarwal of DIPSAR, which is affiliated to the Delhi University and is funded by the Delhi government
How much nicotine was found in various brands and what is the cigarettes equivalent?
Colgate Herbal and Neem Tulsi, had 18 and 10 mg of nicotine- equivalent to the quantity found in nine and five cigarettes, respectively.
Six brands e.g.- Dabur Red, Vicco, Musaka Gul, Payokil, Unadent and Alka Dantmanjan – were found to contain nicotine, Payokil was found to have the highest 16 mg of tobacco, which is equivalent of what a person consumes after smoking eight cigarettes.
What does the Tobacco Products Act say?
According to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, tobacco cannot be added to non-tobacco products like toothpastes and toothpowders.
As per the Act, every tobacco package should have nicotine and tar contents along with the maximum permissible limits, which is not being done by these toothpaste manufacturers.
Moreover, as nicotine and tar are carcinogens, the manufacturers should mention them among contents along with their permissible limits on the packages to help people make an informed choice. Nicotine presence is believed to be responsible for the drug induced feeling of pleasure and said that the DIPSAR report was brought to their notice earlier as well.
How did manufacturers react to the findings?
The findings were, however, strongly refuted by the manufacturers of some of the dental creams and toothpowders named by DIPSAR.
When asked for comments, a Dabur India spokesman said, “We would not be able to comment unless we see the study and the methodology used.”
Prof Agarwal stood by his findings. He said these companies...
“are lying just to safeguard their interests.” He said he is ready to provide the companies with details of the methodology used.
What were reactions from the medical community?
A senior dental surgeon Dr.Rakesh Malhotra warned “Nicotine in toothpastes can have the same ill effects as that in tobacco products like cigarettes and paan products. The nicotine is absorbed by the tongue and saliva in the mouth. It can lead to staining of teeth too and damage the whole enamel. Oral ingestion of nicotine can lead to oral cancer and cancer causing agents can also get into the lining of the stomach, esophagus and into the bladder.”
Nicotine can be absorbed by the lips, tongue, the floor of the mouth, the top roof of the mouth, cheeks and the gums leading to problems like oral inflammation and cancer.
According to Dr R C Jiloha of the psychiatry department, G. B. Pant Hospital,New-Delhi, “Nicotine is distributed throughout the body, mostly to skeletal muscles and binds to the receptors in the brain, where it influences the cerebral metabolism.”
In addition “Oral ingestion of nicotine can lead to oral cancer and cancer causing agents can also get into the lining of the stomach, esophagus and the bladder.”
The findings of nicotine in dental products are surprising from manufacturer’s side and Indian Government side. Manufacturers should take social responsibility and warn the customer of ill effects of tobacco similar to cigarette products. Government should take some serious steps to ban these products in market, which is not only affecting adults but also children.