Sale of pan masala is still thriving in some parts of the district despite its ban by the State government.

While it is not available in the open market, clandestine sales are being reported from some pockets in the district as evident from the information received by the district administration over the last few days. The district administration recently received phone calls informing about such sales from Poothotta and Panampilly Nagar. The details were subsequently passed on to the police stations concerned.

“Pan masala mainly comes from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu where there are many production units, unlike Kerala which does not have a single producing centre. Supply also comes from North Indian States like Uttar Pradesh,” Saju Itty, director of the Kerala Voluntary Health Service and coordinator of the Tobacco Free Ernakulam Project, told The Hindu. Three loads of pan masala from UP was stopped at the border in Palakkad recently.

Quoting a study by the School of Medical Education of the MG University, Mr. Itty said that only five per cent shops sold pan masala alone and majority of them were run by migrant labourers. In the rest of the shops, pan masala is just one of the many commodities on sale and hence, the income of these shops is largely unaffected by the ban.

Yet, clandestine sales were still thriving as there is a huge demand for the product, which is an addictive substance. More importantly, it attracts customers to shops, which in turn leads to sale of other products, said Mr. Itty.

While sale of pan masala remains banned, enforcement in the true sense is set to begin from Saturday. Shop owners were given time till Friday to clear pan masala stocks either by destroying them or moving them out to other States where there is no ban. While retail outlets will also come under the scanner, the State government is more intent on cracking down wholesale dealers as that would help cut off the supply chain, Mr. Itty said.

As per the ban enforced under the Food Safety and Security Act, food safety inspectors with the support of police wherever necessary will carry out surprise raids in shops and destroy pan masala products seized, he said. The Tobacco Free Ernakulam Project will extend all assistance to the drive along with civil society groups.

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