This is the State’s second attempt to ban the carcinogenic substance

Tamil Nadu is considering a proposal to ban gutka and pan masala throughout the State. This is the State’s second attempt to ban the carcinogenic substance.

The State Tobacco Control Cell has submitted the proposal, and it is being processed at the highest level, official sources said.

It was as early as in 2001 that the first attempt was made to ban these products. It was notified that no person shall, by himself or using any person on his behalf, manufacture for sale, store, sell or distribute chewing tobacco, pan masala and gutka containing tobacco in any form under whatever name or description it is being sold in the State.

At that stage, its implementation was stymied by litigation, explains P. Vadivelan, State Tobacco Control Officer.

However, since the implementation of the Food Safety and Standards of India Act and notification of its rules and regulations end last year, it is now possible to implement such a ban within the provisions of the Act. Under Section 2.3.4 of the Regulations under the Act, “a product [is] not to contain any substance which may be injurious to health: Tobacco and nicotine shall not be used as ingredients in any food products.”

The law is now very clear that tobacco or nicotine cannot be added to anything consumed, explains Prasanna Kannan, WHO consultant, State Tobacco Control Cell. “With this notification, we are armed with the power to implement a total ban on sale and manufacture of chewable tobacco products.”

In fact, the State Food Safety Authority can give notice to the company thus selling or manufacturing products containing tobacco and revoke its licence besides rejecting new applications for licences, according to a routable report on implementation of tobacco control provisions under FSSA organised by the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

Madhya Pradesh was the first to implement the ban since the new notification and subsequently other states including Kerala, Mizoram and Gujarat have also banned gutka and pan masala.

Implementation, if the ban were to come through, will jointly be done by both the State Food Safety Wing and the State Tobacco Control Cell. With a sum of Rs. 67 lakh in the kitty, Tamil Nadu heads the country in collecting fines for offences under the Cigarettes and Other tobacco products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, Dr. Vadivelan says.