16 tonnes of banned tobacco products seized from train at Central station

Several tobacco products that have been banned in the State are finding their way into the city by rail.

On Saturday, the food safety and drug administration department seized over 16 tonnes of chewable tobacco products at the Central railway station on a train that had come in from Nizamuddin.

Railway police officers and food safety officials are now trying to determine who the wholesale dealer of the products is.

“We found 54 parcels of banned tobacco products, our largest-ever consignment. We have asked railway officials to identify the source of the products. We will destroy them after collecting samples on Sunday,” said a food safety official.

Ever since the ban on carcinogenic chewable tobacco products such as gutka and pan masala was announced in May, trains have been used bring in these products to the State.

A few weeks ago, 1,000 kg of such products that had been stored in various homes in Ayanavaram and Vadapalani were seized.

Despite regular crackdowns on commercial establishments across the city, the sale of gutka and pan masala has continued in the city, unabated, the official said. This is mainly because wholesalers have begun sourcing the products from other parts of the country, storing them in residential complexes and selling them only to known, regular customers.

Big distributors in George Town continue to receive parcels that come in from other parts of the country because the Railway does not disclose details of senders and recipients, so there is no way to check where the parcels are from or whom they are going to.

“Identifying the source of the consignment is a challenge. The food safety department has requested the Railway to take efforts to prevent such illegal transportation of banned products,” said an official.

Political party connections of many of the wholesalers pose another problem in the implementation of the ban, an official said.

The seized products are likely to be destroyed at the Kodungaiyur dumping yard.

Food safety officials are now educating food business operators, including 56 wholesalers in Chennai district. But a chunk of the wholesale dealers operating from Sowcarpet and T. Nagar are not cooperating with the government, officials said.

Under the ban, the manufacture, storage, distribution and sale of carcinogenic chewable forms of tobacco is forbidden in Tamil Nadu.

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