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Govt to ban sale of gutka, other chewable tobacco

18/09/2012 The Times of India

September 18, 2012

CHENNAI: The state government is likely to ban gutka and pan masala containing tobacco and nicotine in a couple of weeks. The food safety department has recommended a ban on the manufacture, sale and storage of such products under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regulation issued on August 1, 2011.

Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Delhi have already banned these products. A senior official said: "Under the act, the food safety commissioner has the power to ban gutka and paan masala. We are sure we will be able to enforce the ban as early as possible," he said.

According to the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations of 2011, the food safety commissioner has the powers to prohibit -- in the interest of public health -- the manufacture, storage, distribution and sale of any article of food either in the whole of the state or a part for a period not exceeding one year. The act includes Rule 2.3.4, according to which tobacco and nicotine should not be used as ingredients in any food products. The state could now ban gutka using this regulation coupled with a Supreme Court ruling that stated, "since pan masala, gutka and supari are eaten for taste and nourishment, they are all food." The central government has also sent letters to all states proposing a ban on these tobacco products.

A public interest litigation petition filed by advocate P T Geotom is pending with the Madras High Court which ordered notice to the chief secretary, health secretary, commissioner of food safety and others. Geotom said he had sent a representation to the authorities on August 4, 2012 requesting a ban on sale of consumable tobacco products and restrictions on sale of cigarettes near educational institutions and no-smoking zones

The state has registered a rise in the incidence of oral and other forms of cancer, since a sizeable population is addicted to such products. Health activists and NGOs had been pushing for a ban on tobacco products. Anti-tobacco activists cite several reasons for banning gutka. A recent report of the Union ministry of health states that 28 out of the 3,095 chemical components in chewing tobacco products (including gutka) are proven carcinogens. The most abundant group of carcinogens is the tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines. More than 90% of oral cancer in India is directly associated with tobacco use. India spends 300 billion annually in both public and private on treatment of tobacco-related illnesses.



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