Public health professionals, doctors and social activists in the State have called for the imposition of a ban on the consumption of pan masala and gutkha in Kerala as the existing ban on the sale of chewing tobacco products has not had the desired effect of protecting people from the ill-effects of pan masala.

A ban on the consumption of pan masala products alone will ensure that there is no illicit sale or distribution of pan masala products in the community and that there are lesser and lesser number of people using it, they said in a statement here.

Ever since the ban on the sale of pan masala products was introduced in the State in 2012, the enforcement officials have had a tough time trying to stem the tide of illicit smuggling of these products into the State because the demand for pan masala continues to remain high. Despite stringent action against those violating the ban, huge quantities of pan masala products continue to come into the State the illicit way from across the border.

Second State

Kerala was the second State in the country after Madhya Pradesh to ban the manufacture, storage, sale or distribution of gutkha and pan masala containing tobacco or nicotine as ingredients under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations 2011.

However, the State of Assam has now gone a step further by banning the consumption of pan masala through a legislation, giving rise to calls for Kerala to do the same.

Assam has banned consumption of pan masala, gutkha, zarda etc containing tobacco and/or nicotine under the Assam Health (Prohibition of manufacturing, advertisement, trade, storage, distribution, sale and consumption of zarda, gutkha, pan masala, etc, containing tobacco and/or nicotine) Act, 2013.

The Act prohibits “consumption including possession of zarda, gutkha, pan masala etc containing tobacco and/or nicotine and various types of smokeless and chewing tobacco or any of it derivatives in any form.” Further, the Act also makes specific reference to prohibiting advertisements of these products. Violators of the law are liable to be punished with imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine between Rs.1 lakh and Rs.5 lakh. Consumption or possession of zarda, gutka and pan masala containing tobacco is punishable with a fine of Rs 1,000 for the first offence and Rs 2,000 for each subsequent offence.

A legislation to this effect, combined with the existing ban on pan masala sale will bring down the demand for the product in the market, experts said in a statement here.