The Union Health Ministry is all set to ban gutkha,pan masala and other such edible forms of tobacco on the basis of a Supreme Court observation that all these products are food and as per the law it is illegal to mix harmful materials like tobacco in food.
Addressing a gathering during the launch of a new tobacco control campaign,Tobacco is eating your baby alive,Additional Secretary K Desairaju said: We are in the process of sending a notification to states. The SC in a case on gutkha packaging had observed that gutkha is food. We are awaiting a final SC ruling in the matter,but our stand is that if gutkha is food and as per the Food Safety and Standards Act it is illegal to mix harmful things in food,then tobacco and zarda,which are known harmful items,should not be mixed in food. This is what we will tell the states.
However,he conceded that it is really a question of law in which the SC has the final word.
The SC had observed that since pan masala,gutkha or supari are eaten for taste and nourishment,they are all food within the meaning of Section 2(v) of the PFA Act.
The ministry has already cracked down on the gutkha industry by making it mandatory for gutkha packets to carry statutory health warnings and the SC ruled that it can only be packed in plastic pouches to ensure there are no metallic contaminants.
The menace of smokeless tobacco is unique to India,and is especially prevalent among women. So we have our own ways of tackling the problem. This does not in any way mean that we are going slow on cigarettes,but this is a focus area, Desairaju said.
The ministry is still locked in a tussle with the Information and Broadcasting ministry on the issue of banning smoking in films. The matter will be sorted out soon Desairaju said.