Three weeks after it banned ‘gutkha’ in the Capital, the Delhi government is mulling a ban on chewing tobacco.
“The gutkha ban has failed to serve its purpose. Until we also ban chewing tobacco, people will continue to get round the ban. We’re consulting our legal department to find out how can go about it (banning chewing tobacco),” a top government source said on Wednesday.
“Gutkha is a combination of paan masala and tobacco. As these two are freely available in the market separately; people mix them as have as gutkha,” he said.
“Even after the ban, there’s no dearth of gutkha at shops. Like, for example, if you buy Dilbaag paan masala at Re 1, the shopkeeper also offers Dilbaag jarda (tobacco) for an additional Rs. 1. The same goes with Shikhar and many more brands. You mix the pouches and have it as gutkha,” said Rajnish Kumar (27), a Delhi University student.
Also, the government saying that the gutkha ban has been ineffective is not for nothing. Between September 19 and 27, the prevention of food adulteration department collected 44 samples — 29 of paan masala and 15 of chewing tobacco — from across the city. Officials could not find even a single sample of gutkha.
“We have sent the samples for tests. Reports will be available in about 10 days’ time. If paan masala is found mixed with tobacco or vice versa, we will register cases and take action against those violating the ban,” said a senior official.
“Paan masala mixed with tobacco is gutkha. But we’re getting separate samples of paan masala and tobacco. We want to verify if gutkha is being sold in the name of either paan masala or tobacco,” he said.
On September 10, the government banned the sale, purchase, manufacture, transportation, storage and display of gutkha. The penalty for violating the order is seven years in jail and R1 lakh fine. It causes oral cancer. The latest Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) report revealed that 10.5% of adults — 16.7% men and 2.8% women — in Delhi chew tobacco products.
What’s happening elsewhere
Several states such as MP, Kerala, Haryana, Bihar, Maharashtra, HP, Rajasthan and Goa have already banned all chewable tobacco products. According to Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations 2011, gutkha and other forms of chewable tobacco products should be banned.