Tamil Nadu takes recourse to the Food Safety and Standards Act to ban tobacco products this time

Tamil Nadu has finally said no to all chewable forms of tobacco. With this, 30 States in the country have officially banned the cancer-causing substance.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Monday announced on the floor of the House a complete ban on the manufacture, storage, distribution and sale of all forms of chewable tobacco – particularly pan masala and gutka.

The announcement had the anti-tobacco group in the State cheering wildly. “We have been asking for this for ages. In fact, I made a representation to the Planning Commission to consider this seriously. And today we are happy to see it implemented in Tamil Nadu finally,” says S.Shanta, chairperson, Adyar Cancer Institute. The campaigners against tobacco in the country were concerned about Tamil Nadu being among the larger States not to ban chewable forms of tobacco. “It is a very welcome move,” says P.C.Gupta. He says this will help a great deal in preventing movement of tobacco (chewable) products across States. “Karnataka is the only State in the South yet to implement the ban, and we hope that the gap will be filled as well,” he adds.

According to activists who have been campaigning against the sale of tobacco products, chewable or smoking, the turnaround came with the Supreme Court ruling in the Godawat Pan Masala case that since pan masala, gutka or supari are eaten for taste and nourishment, they are all food within the meaning of Section 2(v) of the (Prevention of Food Adulteration) Act. Subsequently, with the Food Safety and Standards Act coming into force, the sale of pan masala and gutka were taken over by that law.

The ban will be now implemented under the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, which specifically states that no food product should contain tobacco and nicotine as ingredients. Besides running the risk of having their products seized by officials, offenders can face between six months to three years in jail, say sources. Officials in the State say that the implementation will be done jointly by the office of the Food Commissioner and the State Tobacco Control Cell.

A detailed government order explaining the role of different agencies in implementation of the ban is awaited.

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