• Delhi government bans chewable tobacco for a year

    April 20, 2016

    India, in the past has seen some very strong decisions, concerning the consumption of injurious substances like alcohol and drugs. With Bihar government deciding to ban liquor in the state, it looks like the Delhi government took some tips and has now banned all chewing tobacco products, including pan masala, gutkha, flavoured and scented tobacco and kharra, here for a year, an official said on Friday.

    The Department of Food Safety issued a notification declaring that manufacture and sale of gutkha, pan masala, zarda and khaini packed or unpacked are prohibited for a year as these products damage public health. The central government will see this decision as one for the better.

    In the past, the Centre had tried increasing the pictorial warnings on the cigarette packets. Welcoming the government’s move to implement 85% pictorial health warnings on both sides of all tobacco products, various civil society organizations Monday said that the decision will serve as a long-term investment in safeguarding the health and well-being of citizens. The Delhi government took this a step forward and has confirmed that all such forms of chewing tobacco, whether packaged or unpackaged, sold as one product, or through packaged separate products that could be mixed by consumers, come under the ambit of the ban.

    Colorful sachets of the tobacco, which is commonly mixed with betel nuts, spices, sugar, lime and other flavors, are purchased at countless stalls and pushcarts. A whopping 33 percent of Indian men and 26 percent of all Indian adults chew gutka, paan masala, khaini, zarda and other varieties, according to the World Health Organization Global Adult Tobacco Survey.

    "This is a positive step by the government and we welcome it. The use of chewing tobacco is so widespread that India is often referred to as the oral cancer capital of the world," said G.R. Khatri, president of the South Asia chapter of the World Lung Foundation. Few states starting with Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar, Maharashtra and Rajasthan prohibited gutkha just months after the Food and Safety Standards Regulations' notification which is the Prohibition and Restriction on Sales.


    Just to put the picture into perspective, let us share some facts with you. Almost a third of all tobacco-related deaths in the world belong to India, and the government has been trying to stop tobacco use. Around 74.8 percent tobacco products are being marketed without any pictorial health warning violating law, according to a study. India has 12 crore tobacco users, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2009-2010, which means every ninth Indian consumes tobacco. Direct medical costs of treating tobacco related diseases in India amount to 907 million dollars for smoked tobacco annually and 285 million dollars for smokeless tobacco, according to Ms Shoba John, who serves on the board of 2005 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the world's first public health pact. Reasons enough for justifying the ban? We think so.

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