Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV), a pan-India organisation campaigning against usage of tobacco, has welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision asking tobacco manufacturers to abide by the ban on the sale of gutka and other products. State patron of the VoTV, Dr Prahlad Duggal, said they now hoped to see a decline in the rate of oral cancers sweeping Punjab. He said, “The order needs to be strictly enforced by the state government so that there is a real impact on the health of citizens.” While hearing the appeal filed by manufacturers of pan masala, gutka and chewing tobacco (zarda) against the state government notifications issued under the FSSAI regulations banning these products, the Supreme Court (SC), had on Saturday directed for strictly complying with regulations of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulation, 2011, notified on August 1, 2011, by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The said regulation 2.3.4 mandates prohibition and restriction on sale of food products having tobacco and nicotine as their ingredients, including gutka, pan masala and zarda. The regulation was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2013, but the tobacco industry was bypassing the directive by selling ingredients of gutkha, pan masala and chewing tobacco, separately as twin packs, said Duggal. Welcoming the order, Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, surgeon and professor at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, said the order finally ended the gutka industry, which had led to an epidemic of oral cancers in the country. A noted lawyer, Ranjit Singh, remarked that this was a landmark order. He said it would plug legal loopholes, which the tobacco industry was using, to bypass the ban on gutka.