chewing tobacco
chewing tobaccoReuters

In a step causing yet another blow to India's tobacco industry, the Delhi government has banned for one year the manufacture, sale, purchase and storage of all forms of chewing tobacco, including pan masala, gutka, flavoured /scented tobacco and kharra. The ban came into effect on April 13, 2016.

The Delhi government said gutka (a crushed preparation of raw tobacco) and paan masala (a mixture of areca betel nut, sugar, spices and perfume) can be classified as food product, and should not contain injurious-to- health substances like tobacco in them.

It said the fresh directive is in line with the Central government order under FSSA (2006).

The Delhi Food Safety Department in a notification dated April 13 said 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.

The notification issued by Delhi Food Safety Commissioner Mrinalini Darswal said various forms of chewing tobacco by whatsoever name not only cause damage to the health of consumers, but its adverse impact could also lead to alterations of the genetic makeup of future generations.

The notification said tobacco whether flavoured, scented or mixed with other ingredients such as heavy metals, anti-caking agents (except to the extent specifically permitted as ingredients), silver leaf, binders, flavours, scents, fragrances , prohibited chemicals or any of these ingredients (the said ingredients are hereafter collectively or individually, as the context requires, referred to as the "said additives") are food under clause (j) of section 3 of the FSSA, (2006).

It further said the Central government has already banned products containing tobacco and nicotine under regulation 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards Regulations FSSR, 2011 and anti-caking agents (beyond the extent permitted) under regulation 3.1.7 of the FSSR, 2011.

The Delhi government while terming chewing tobacco as food articles said that it has ordered the directive in the larger interest of public health. Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain was quoted as saying by the Hindu that more than 10,000 people in the state die every year by developing oral cancer due to tobacco consumption.

According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Audit Tobacco Survey, 26 percent of adults in India consume smokeless tobacco, including chewing tobacco.

The Tobacco Institute of India (TII) is already miffed with the Central government over the increase in the size of health warnings on cigarette and tobacco packs, which according to it could lead to a loss of Rs. 350 crore every day to the industry.