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FDA conducts checks at 15 sites,reports awaited

With the state wide ban on gutKha coming into effect from Friday,Newsline takes stock of the situation

With the state government ban on gutkha coming to force from Friday,Pune division office of the FDA has sent out teams to 15 locations in the city targeting wholesale gutkha vendors. Joint Commissioner FDA SR Kekre said the teams have fanned out and reports were awaited.

According to the notification issued by the Food Safety Commissioner,Mahesh Zagade in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (a) of sub-section (2) of section 30 of the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA),2006 in the interest of public health,manufacture,storage,distribution or sale of gutkha containing either tobacco or nicotine or magnesium carbonate as ingredients by whatsoever name has been made available in the market and any other products marketed separately are prohibited in the state for one year.

The state had banned gutkha twice earlier,in 2002 and 2008,but the ban could not be implemented due to numerous legal hassles. This is the third time that the Maharashtra government has announced a gutkha ban. Generally in the first phase,FDA takes action against sellers in 100 yards circumference around schools and footpath vendors. FDA has the power to file an FIR under FSSA 2006.

Q and A with Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi,associate professor,head and neck dept,Tata Memorial Hospital

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Why is gutkha banned,while the sale of bidis and cigarettes is still rampant?

According to the FSSAI regulation 2.3.4,gutkha is a prohibited food substance and state governments have to enforce it. Bidi and cigarette are tobacco products and there is no law to prohibit them.

Is the ban necessary?

Under section 2.3.4,manufacture/storage/ sale of gutkha and pan masala is prohibited. In case of violation,the person can be arrested. We are hoping that eventually the interest in gutkha/paan masala will wear out.

Which other states have done it?

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Madhya Pradesh,Bihar,Kerala,Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan have implemented the ban.

Has the ban in these sates been challenged in their respective high courts?

Gutkha/paan masala Industry did file writ petitions in MP,Bihar and Kerala for stay on ban. All the High Courts have upheld the ban. Bihar High court in fact dismissed the petition.

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Why is paan masala banned even though it does not contain tobacco?

* It contains Supari that causes cancer and several illnesses.

* Gutkha Industry sells Gutkha under the name of paan masala

What about smuggled gutkha?

This is a genuine problem and it will remain as long as Gutkha ban is ot enforced all over India.

What about black market availability?

This pushes the cost of Gutkha 5-6 times its retail price. This increase in price causes —

* Decrease in consumption among addicts

* No free availability for kids and youth who are not addicted.

Do we have the infrastructure to enforce ban?

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Maharashtra is the only state that has engaged police to enforce the ban.

What happens after one year?

While the ban on Gutkha is permanent under Section 2.3.4,the ban on paan masala has to be renewed every year under Section 30.

What are the health effects of smokeless tobacco?

* Highly addictive with dismal quit rates of 5 per cent.

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* International Agency for research on Cancer,WHO has classified smokeless tobacco as confirmed cancer causing substances.

* Contains 3095 chemicals and 28 well proven carcinogens

* Causes severe impairment of the oral and dental health

* It’s use is associated with increased risk of stroke.

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* It adversely affects reproductive health in women and also seriously affects the fetus.

* Smokeless tobacco usage is also associated with oesophagus,stomach,pancreas,larynx,pharynx and lung cancer.

(As told to Anuradha Mascarenhas)

First published on: 21-07-2012 at 01:48 IST
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