Citizens' Issues
There could be nicotine in your herbal toothpaste

A study by the Delhi Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research attached to Delhi University has found that leading toothpaste and toothpowder brands use nicotine; a few companies deny such usage and some are tight-lipped

If you have given up cigarettes and chewing tobacco and are feeling glad that you will not go crazy and chew your bathroom for want of your daily nicotine fix, you might have to give your ‘herbal’ green toothpaste (or toothpowder) a cold, hard look. A recent study has proven that the ‘freshness’ induced after brushing with such herbal brands could be because of the nicotine present in the mixture.

Findings by the Delhi Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences—a research affiliate of University of Delhi, state that leading toothpaste and tooth powders of brands such as Colgate Herbal and Neem Tulsi, Dabur Red, VICCO, Himalaya and Alka Dantamanjan were found to have nicotine in them. These results are going viral all over the blogosphere and of course, social networking site Twitter.

One such article on Nationalist News Network says, “According to the study (mentioned above), popular brands like Colgate Herbal and Neem Tulsi were found to contain 10mg-18mg of nicotine in each standard tube. The amount of nicotine in (a tube of) toothpaste is equivalent to the amount of nicotine present in about five to nine cigarettes.

“Tooth powders like Dabur Red, one of the oldest brands in India, VICCO, Alka Dantamanjan and Payokil were also found to contain nicotine. Payokil contained the highest amount (16mg) of nicotine, which is equal to the amount of nicotine present in about eight cigarettes,” the article adds.

In the study, 24 brands of toothpaste and toothpowder were tested, of which seven were found to be containing significant amount of nicotine.

Medical practitioners say, surprisingly, brands which claim to be ‘herbal’, often used by heath-conscious people, were found to contain nicotine. This is dangerous as people would be at the receiving end of being exposed to harmful diseases.

Experts say that this is not only harmful, but also a breach of law as according to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, nicotine cannot be added to non-tobacco products such as toothpaste and toothpowders. Nicotine in tobacco leads to various harmful diseases such as cancer (tobacco is a carcinogenic). In fact, even chewing nicotine gum can cause dentures to loosen, create damage to dental enamel and produce stains on teeth. As a chemical, nicotine is highly addictive (even more than heroin) and if children use a such a toothpaste or toothpowder liberally dosed with nicotine, they can develop addiction at a very early age.

“The ill-effects of nicotine, whether used in a cigarette or toothpaste or anything else, are still the same and equally harmful,” an oncologist from a Mumbai-based hospital told Moneylife, preferring anonymity.

Other major brands that were found to be using nicotine include RA Thermoseal Sensoform, Stoline, Musaka Gul, and Unadent.

But a number of these companies have denied using nicotine in their brands.
Refuting the claim, a Himalaya spokesperson told Moneylife, “We do not add nicotine to our toothpaste. Hence, there is no possibility of finding it in our formulation. Tests conducted on the same batch of toothpaste have confirmed that our product is absolutely nicotine-free. The product was analysed for the presence of nicotine using highly sensitive liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS-MS) technique. The results showed that nicotine was not detected (method detection limit was for 1 parts per million or ppm).”

A spokesperson from Colgate-Palmolive (India) Ltd also denied the usage of nicotine. He told Moneylife, “We do not use nicotine or any tobacco substance as an ingredient in any of our products. We have contacted Professor SS Agarwal of the Delhi Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research to learn the details of his research.”

Even VICCO Labs denied the claim. Sanjeev Pendharkar, director, VICCO told Moneylife that, "The report from Delhi Institute of Pharmaceutical Science and Research referred in the news is wrong. The matter was also investigated by the officers of Food and Drugs Administration. The officers did not find anything adverse and the samples drawn by them also did not show presence of nicotine. On our part, we tested samples of Vicco Vajradanti Paste and Powder and the raw materials used in them. We found that both finished products and raw materials did not show presence of nicotine."

An e-mail query sent by Moneylife to Dabur remained unanswered till the time of publishing this story.



Prakash Bhate

6 years ago

Nicotine is not reported to be carcinogenic as per the Merck Index, a widely used handbook by chemists. It is the tar that is produced and inhaled when a cigarette is smoked that is carcinogenic. Nicotine is reported to be highly toxic. Symptoms include extreme nausea, vomiting, evacuation of bowel and bladder, mental confusion, twitching, convulsions. Seriously, how many people who use herbal toothpastes suffer every morning from these symptoms?


6 years ago

The kind of attitudes and approaches some large corporates have in this day and age and have historically had towards ensuring that first they create a health problem and then create a situation where that health problem has to be resolved is nothing new. It has always been suspected that toothpastes have been laced with habit forming substances or even with substances which were simply not good for humans. (Example: Hindustan Levers, when it should have known better, used to actively promote a brand called SIGNAL which had 'stripes' (therefore attractive to children) and container. . . fluoride.)

Are people getting addicted to toothpaste? Is it because of nicotine or minty flavours or simply sugar?

Chances are - yes, And those extra large diameter dispensing holes aren't helping, either, in reducing the risk.

Thank you for another informative article/vm

Shadi Katyal

6 years ago

There must be a health enquiry about such products but as the machinery is too slow or could be bought ,how is a citizen to protect from such usage of nicotine etc.These companies must give answer that why they had misled the public in name of Green etc.
The companies concerned must declare for how long this products has been used and WHY???
Can anyone tell why we are so arrogant to mislead the public in name of health and misguide them.
Is it not the sqme as Gutka and Paan Praag being sold for health whereas it is a carcinogenic product.
Can we Indians could earn by honesty???


6 years ago

Can you provide names of the brands that do NOT contain nicotine? Isn't that info more useful?

Vikas Gupta

6 years ago

Its really shocking to read Nicotine presence in Leading Brands. Its like cheating & playing with Health of ur consumers.These companies should be prosecuted & punished heavily.

Concerned with the state of affairs in the country, eminent citizens write second Open Letter to our leaders calling for immediate change

The first open letter was written on 17th January. This Magna Charta wants action on land, judicial, electoral & police reforms; need for effective redressal mechanisms and measures to improve the economic and investment climate

This second letter, written by Mr Jamshyd Godrej, Justice Sam Variava, Prof M Narasimham, Mr Yezdi Malegam, Ms Anu Aga, Dr A Vaidyanathan, Dr Bimal Jalan, Mr Keshub Mahindra, Mr Deepak Parekh, Mr N Vaghul, Mr Azim Premji, Mr Nachiket Mor, Justice B N Srikrishna and Dr Ashok Ganguly wants this communiqué to “make a beginning to develop specific actions and recommendations which would be placed in the public domain, from time to time.”

Here is the complete text of the Open Letter received by Moneylife:

                               Open Letter II to our Leaders  

Mr Jamshyd Godrej, Justice Sam Variava, Prof M Narasimham, Mr Yezdi Malegam, Ms Anu Aga, Dr A Vaidyanathan, Dr Bimal Jalan, Mr Keshub Mahindra, Mr Deepak Parekh, Mr N Vaghul, Mr Azim Premji, Mr Nachiket Mor, Justice B N Srikrishna and Dr Ashok Ganguly, are a small group of like-minded citizens who are concerned with the state of affairs of the nation. On January 17, 2011, the Group released an Open Letter to the Leaders of the country which focused on four key issues:—(a) Growing Governance Deficit (b) Galloping Corruption (c) The urgent need to distinguish between ‘Dissent’ and ‘Disruption’ and (d) Environmental Challenges. The Group had mentioned that it would attempt to make a beginning to develop specific actions and recommendations which would be placed in the public domain, from time to time. It is in this context that the Group puts forward its second Open Letter.

The focus of the second Open Letter primarily is on issues pertaining to day-to-day corruption being faced by the common man, rather than ‘episodic corruption’ which the draft Lokpal Bill is intended to address.

The issues of prime concern for the Group that require urgent action are:

•    Land, Judicial, Electoral and Police reforms;

•    Need for effective redressal mechanisms; and

•    Measures to improve the economic and investment climate.

The group believes that through urgent and concerted action by the elected leaders of the country, positive transformation can begin to be achieved.

                            Open Letter II to Our Leaders  

On January 17, 2011, we, a group of like-minded citizens who were deeply concerned with the state of affairs of the nation addressed an Open Letter to our leaders. This letter focused on four issues—(a) Growing Governance Deficit (b) Galloping Corruption (c) The urgent need to distinguish between ‘Dissent’ and ‘Disruption’ and (d) Environmental Challenges. The Open Letter received wide exposure in the public domain and was generally perceived as being timely. As mentioned in the first Open Letter, the aim of the group is to develop specific actions regarding the above-mentioned issues and place these in the public domain from time to time. It is in this context that we put forward our second Open Letter.

August 27, 2011 marked a high point by the historic debate leading to the ‘Sense of the House’ in the Parliament on the Lokpal Bill. The event reinforced the inviolable primacy of the Indian Constitution. It was also an event of relief and reassurance to the vast and silent majority who constitute India’s core civil society.

We support the need for the urgent passage of a well-crafted Lokpal Bill by the Parliament. While the Parliament debates the contours of the Lokpal Bill, the discussion of the details now resides with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice. We, however, believe that the Lokpal Bill is only one small but critical step in the national task of weeding out the plague of corruption in India. This draft Lokpal Bill is intended to address EPISODIC CORRUPTION, but is unlikely to have any significant impact on the DAY-TO-DAY CORRUPTION which is insidious and demeaning.

We, the people, the common individual, seem to have no recourse in our daily life which is vitiated by corruption in almost every sphere of our normal dealings. Almost every interface of the common man with public officials is impaired by corruption, especially in the most routine transactions, such as the grant of ‘pattas’, issuing of birth/death certificates, utility connections and availing of entitlements amongst several others. Similar cases of continuous daily harassment are widely faced by small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and numerous services and manufacturing entities.   

The Group wishes to put forward some issues which call for urgent attention and action to make reforms effective and have a positive and perceptible impact on citizens’ day-to-day life.

1.    The common man (the poor bear the greatest burden) is a silent sufferer because available Constitutional remedies remain inaccessible. Several antiquated laws require urgent overhaul to reflect contemporary realities. LAND, JUDICIAL, ELECTORAL and POLICE reforms are most urgently needed. Key recommendations and draft legislation on most of these issues are already in the public domain. It is imperative, however, that legislative reforms be constructively and constitutionally debated in a time-bound and orderly manner and not in uncivil and hostile environments. DISRUPTION, both in the Parliament and outside is socially debilitating and erodes public confidence.

2.    It is acknowledged that a strong nexus exists between certain corporates, politicians, bureaucrats and power brokers. This is one of the greatest threats for the Indian economy. It may be worth mentioning that the UK, in July 2011, enacted the ‘The Bribery Act, 2010’. The Act makes it illegal TO OFFER, RECEIVE AND FAIL TO PREVENT BRIBERY and extends culpability to the highest levels in an accused corporation. Only if timely and punitive action is taken against both, THE GIVER AS WELL AS THE RECEIVER OF THE BRIBE, will the fight against ground level corruption be won effectively.

3.   Even the best crafted legislation will not cleanse the system unless effective REDRESSAL MECHANISMS are put in place. This, however, is not possible given the acute backlog of cases pending in the courts, estimated at over 3.1 crore. India has 10 judges per million population compared to 50 in the UK and 107 in the US. The adage of justice delayed is justice denied is the key reason why the common man is unable to fight against corruption. It is imperative to increase the number of judges and other judicial officers, modernise infrastructure and implement judicial reforms such as creating additional fast-track, specialised courts.

4.   While we appreciate and support the need for environmental protection, it should be recognised that there is an impasse on ENVIRONMENTAL CLEARANCES which continues to delay several investment proposals and hamper economic growth. Among other measures, it is worthwhile considering the introduction of an online AUCTION process for allocation of natural resources which will provide the much needed TRANSPARENCY and prevent discretionary and irregular practices. Owing to several such impediments, fresh investments are not forthcoming at the pace required for a rapidly growing economy such as ours. Policy uncertainties and delays in approvals are forcing many large corporate entities to seek out opportunities in other geographies.

We wholeheartedly endorse Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s statement that economic progress must not be hijacked by internal dissensions. Therefore, India’s focus must remain steadfast on economic reforms and growth in order to reduce poverty and ensure adequate job creation. These national challenges cannot be solved by urban protests and posturing.

We are working with a group of professionals who have been specially commissioned by us to study issues of governance and public accountability. The results of this study, when completed, will be made available to the Parliamentary Committees as may be appropriate when these issues are discussed.

We wish to reiterate that through URGENT and CONCERTED ACTION by the elected leaders of our country, positive transformation can begin to be achieved.

Mr N Vaghul                 Mr Deepak Parekh          Dr Ashok Ganguly
Mr Jamshyd Godrej     Justice Sam Variava         Prof M Narasimham
Mr Yezdi Malegam      Ms Anu Aga                     Dr A Vaidyanathan
Dr Bimal Jalan            Mr Keshub Mahindra         Mr Azim Premji
Mr Nachiket Mor         Justice B N Srikrishna




6 years ago

The problem with our Government offices and law courts are that there too much unnecessary procedures. All these procedures must be done away and a new transparent and simplified must be adopted. Even now many our courts are not computerized. One needs to wait for at least a month to get the copy of a judgement from lower courts.

Police reforms is a must as most our laws are archaic. Even after 65 years of independence the behavior of the policemen not changed. The corruption in Police is rampant. we need a independent state vigilance department without policemen to inquire into police corruption.

S D Israni

6 years ago

One cannot but agree with these eminent persons what they have stated in the open letter. The tragedy is our leaders who are totally self absorbed have become blind and deaf as well.

Corruption affects the entire society, but the poorest of the poor have to bear unduly high burden, as they are the biggest losers.

Today effective justice is available only to the rich and very rich, others only have illusion of justice.

One only hopes that the blind and deaf leaders will at least in their own interest perceive the rapidly deteriorating environment in the country.

Black money stashed abroad: How can we get it back?

A number of countries have put in place amnesty schemes—with harsh penalties for any violations. It is high time India follows suit

A report from Vienna on 6 October 2011 quotes a Ministry of External Affairs Secretary—“The new tax information exchange treaty is ratified by the Swiss Parliament paving way for obtaining data on black money stashed in Switzerland. It will take effect from 1 January 2012 for Switzerland and 1 April 2012 in India, the respective fiscal year commencements. The protocol amending the Indo-Swiss Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement was earlier concluded in New Delhi on 30th August this year. The revised treaty now allows India access (to) tax-related information from Switzerland with prospective effect.” Now that an official mechanism is in place, it is all the more reason that Indian authorities go out rigorously ferreting out tax evaders.

Innumerable committees have gone into the issue from time to time. Even recently, another extremely high-level committee has been appointed and separately, a Special Investigation Team headed by a retired Judge has been appointed by the Supreme Court. Also presently being heard in the apex court is a high-profile PIL (Public Interest Litigation), filed by Senior Counsel Ram Jethmalani, an MP, with KVM Pai, a former Chief Commissioner of Income-Tax joining in as an intervener. Mr Pai has a lot to say.

Yet not one, including the government and taxation mandarins nor the Planning Commission or RBI (Reserve Bank of India) or financial wizards, is in a position to come out—even with any degree of reasonable certainty— the estimates, or even guesses, of the quantum of black money in circulation in the parallel economy in India and the volumes/extent of monies stashed abroad. So much so, that the numbers range anywhere from thousands of billions—to trillions of dollars. No one even has contested their veracity or accuracy!

The Swiss authorities and their highly-secretive bankers through this year have had to provide data by meekly succumbing to the pressures from the G-20 governments, the OECD, the powerful US Federal Reserve, Her Majesty’s Treasury and the French, German and Dutch governments.

Earlier, through their diplomatic representatives at New Delhi, the Swiss had indicated their willingness to furnish the information on a request through proper channels. They very rightly refused to accede to roving enquiries—calling them “throwing phone books of vague names without any specific charges against designated individuals.”

Against the prevailing slowdown in the US, which is also observed in Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Iceland along with France and the UK to a certain extent, it should not be difficult to weed out the illegally-stashed money, given India has the political will.

With the fall in the values of world currencies, most jittery Indians with monies abroad must be itching to get their hoarded wealth to safer conditions back home—at any cost. This is the right time for the Government of India to cash in on the opportunity to arm-twist the offenders using the carrot & stick approach. This ought to be a last one-time ‘amnesty’ to be kicked in by imposing penalties strong enough to deter future wrongful acts of  violations of tax and exchange laws, by conveying a strong message that such acts will result in dire consequences. The final offer should come at a cost that must be severe enough to hurt, if the amnesty scheme is not availed of by defaulters—this should be the price for legitimising past tax-evasion criminal acts.

The UK Treasury envisages bulk deals involving flat 50% levy on assets as ‘retrospective’ fees on unpaid taxes to legitimise Swiss accounts by calling on the Swiss to tax the bank accounts of British nationals and pass on the money so collected to the UK Treasury without disclosure of names. Her Majesty’s Treasury conservatively estimates it to be in the region of up to 9 billion pounds. It has introduced a 200% penalty for offshore tax evasion to punish the use of jurisdictions that do not share tax information. Even before this, the UK had schemes for undisclosed earnings in foreign bank accounts. Recently, there has been a proposal which will enable a defaulter to avoid penal action by paying a penalty of 100% by way of a simple declaration.

The French demanded and collected data from offshore banking headquarters of HSBC in Germany. This data to be made use of in the French Revenue initiative is expected to garner additional revenue of 500 million pounds from approximately 300 billion is to be repatriated to France.

The Italians are reported to have disclosed 95 billion pounds held in previously undeclared assets under recent amnesties. Over 98% was repatriated from assets held offshore that included works of art, sculpture, jewellery, cars and yachts. The Italian tax authorities, in the last 8 years alone, launched three schemes levying tax rates varying from 5% to 7% of the value of assets. The sources were not sought but the authorities made it clear that this was a definitive one-time clemency law, which would not be repeated. It was expected to net further 30 billion pounds by way of additional revenues and the money repatriated from Switzerland alone was estimated at over 40 billion.

The Dutch voluntary disclosure initiative for undisclosed foreign accounts has reportedly netted in disclosures of one billion pounds. Over the years, Ireland and Columbia are also stated to have tax-amnesty success stories.
The Indian CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes) ought to draw from the experiences listed above and from other countries to kick in effective measures to forestall further tax evasion and avoidance, subject incomes and wealth to intense scrutiny to reduce tax haven attractiveness. There is a need to bring in the increase in the cost for non-compliance, by levy of higher fines and penalties and stricter audit scrutiny for the delinquent taxpayer, by an increased sustained enforcement activity. The punishment ought to be imprisonment, in addition to monetary penalty, as in the USA. The fear of the devil is enough deterrent to avoid such crimes.

Looking at the state of the global economy—and those economies of ‘developed’ countries, it would make imminent sense if defaulters coughed up the requisite penalty and bring back the illegal money which they had siphoned off from India and stashed away in foreign ‘safe’ havens. Will the government have the foresight to act in time?

(Nagesh Kini is a Mumbai based chartered accountant turned activist.)




6 years ago

Amnesty schemes are positive ways to get the black money back to India. NHAI, REC, RBI all have the technical knowhow to deal with large finds to be diverted to infrastructure development.
Hence "Infrastructure Bonds" with a ten year tenure and 6% coupon rate(paid annually) should be attractive enough for black money holders to invest. As the list is going to be available the Govt should start prodding the offenders with notices for compliance. Penalty should not only be imprisonment but also the confiscation of all assets gained out of the black money. But one very important question that begs answer is whether the politician who is the kingpin behind this ailment ,would permit a treatment for cure?


Vikas Gupta

In Reply to RNandakumar 6 years ago

Yes, u r right that could this happen in India too where most of our Politicians & Bureaucreats are the most Corrupt persons?

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