Minister for Health U.T. Khader has said that the government will explore options to plug loopholes in the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011.
The announcement came a day after the Police and the Health Department officials found that separate sachets of chewing tobacco were being sold after the ban was imposed on sale and consumption of products containing tobacco and nicotine under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011. And, gutka addicts had switched over to consuming a concoction of pan masala and chewing tobacco.
A team of officials on Saturday found sachets of pan masala and chewing tobacco being sold separately at a tea stall on Cunnigham Road. The Bangalore Urban District Health Officer, Rajani M., called for an amendment to the regulation banning consumption of gutka.
Section 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations, 2011, prohibits the sale of food items containing tobacco and nicotine. But, the gutka lobby continues to sell chewing tobacco and pan masala separately.
In response, Mr Khader said that the ban is as per a central law. The State government would write to the Central government after exploring legal options, he added.
Meanwhile, vendors who were selling gutka packets and those consuming it pointed out that the imposition of the ban on gutka and pan masala that contain tobacco or nicotine by the State government on May 31 was “meaningless” as consumers were able to make gutka by mixing the two.
For thirty-two-year-old Ranganath (name changed), an auto driver, ban on sale and consumption of gutka did not have much of an impact on him. “The only change is that I do not get to eat tasty gutka like before,” he said even as he mixed chewing tobacco and pan masala packet before consuming it.
For gutka consumers the ban means that they have to buy separate sachets of pan masala and chewing tobacco.
In fact, The Hindu found sachets of pan masala and chewing tobacco of the same brand. “So if we spend Rs. 7, we can buy the two sachets and mix them. But this is not as tasty as gutka. Before the ban, I was consuming gutka five times a day, now I eat it only two times a day,” he added.
At one of the stalls in Koramangala, the vendor was selling sachets of tobacco and pan masala of different brands, and he admitted that gutka consumers were buying them.
“Youngsters, workers and people of all age groups throng these stalls and easily purchase tobacco at any given point of time. Buyers easily create their version of gutka by mixing the pan masala and chewing tobacco.” said a vendor in Koramangala seeking anonymity.