Muscat: Adolescents as young as 12-years of age are addicted to a harmful chewable tobacco, popularly known as afdhal, which is widely and easily available in small grocery shops throughout the Sultanate.
Afdhal is not classified as Drug A by medical practitioners but it gives the user a “high”.
School teachers of students in Grade VI say that they have repeatedly caught students chewing the tobacco on the campus.
The tobacco is placed between the gum and the side of the mouth, just under the molar tooth. When mixed with saliva, the tobacco produces a thick slime-like substance, which the user slowly swallows over a period of up to an hour.
“Children miss their classes or come in late. When they attend classes, they tend to misbehave and frequently fight with each other for no particular reason.
These students as young as 12 years are addicted to afdhal, which leads to strange behaviour
The shops that sell afdhal look innocuous. Shopkeepers sell grocery but hide the deadly stuff under a secret counter, in case there is a sudden police raid. Some of the grocers have agents who sell the tobacco in educational institutions, including colleges and universities. They also sell the tobacco to youngsters on beaches and football grounds.
“The tobacco is wrapped in a plastic foil and fastened with a rubber band. It is sold in very small quantities and can cost as little as 200 baisa per use,” said Khalil Al Saifi, a drug rehabilitation officer at Ibn Sina Hospital.
Apart from erratic behaviour, afdhal can also cause oral cancer, according to Al Saifi.
The Royal Oman Police has imposed a ban on its use, but the tobacco is still smuggled into Oman from countries in the Indian subcontinent, said sources.