The Delhi government’s ban on sale, purchase, production and storage of all forms of chewable tobacco products, including gutkha, khaini, zarda and nicotine mixed pan masala in the Capital came into force on Friday.
“We have decided to ban chewable tobacco products in all forms, in Delhi from today. No one will be allowed to sell, purchase or store chewable tobacco products,” said Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain on Friday.
The sale and production of gutkha, a mixture of raw tobacco and supari (betel nut), was banned in Delhi in September 2012. This was in pursuance of a series of directions from the Supreme Court to ban ‘gutkha’ in the city.
Since the ban mentioned the term ‘gutkha’, tobacco retailers started selling the components of gutkha (betel nut and raw tobacco) in separate pouches, defeating the purpose of the ban.
Enforcement teams of the Delhi Police and the health department will conduct surprise inspections across the city to ensure that the ban is implemented. “Anyone found selling chewable tobacco products will be fined and action will be taken as per the laid down provisions,” said Jain.
According to health department officials, gutkha is also supplied to retailers in Delhi from neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Stepping up its efforts towards tobacco control, the health department has also launched a Tobacco Aware Citizens’ Directory to spread word about its harmful effects.
This announcement has drawn sharp reactions from tobacco product sellers and the industry.
“This would lead to a big loss for us. About 50% of our earning each day is by selling gutkha, pan masala, khaini and zarda. We earn around `2500-3000 each day by selling these products with a profit margin of 8-10%,” said one of the pan masala and gutkha vendors.
“We are opposed to the decision as it is discriminatory and may encourage those who consume chewable tobacco products to smoke. Perhaps, the government did not target the cigarette industry as it is big and has a number of prominent MNCs while the chewable tobacco industry is smaller in size,” said CK Sharma, business head, DS Group.
“The decision does not follow any of the legislation, WHO or parliamentary standing committee recommendations that have called for a complete ban on tobacco products on grounds of health safety. We are aware of the concerns of the health ministry and are appreciative of it but a partial ban does not work. We will make a representation to the Delhi government and try to meet with the CM and health minister to apprise them of our concerns,” Sharma said.