Why should chewing of tobacco not be banned as such a step would end the problem posed by ‘gutka’ and ‘pan masala’, the Delhi High Court asked today. The court asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) whether such a step has been taken by the Centre or any of the state governments.
While ‘gutka’ is a mild stimulant made of areca nut, tobacco and other intoxicants, ‘pan masala’ is a mixture of betel leaf with lime, areca nut and other items. “Have you considered banning it? If you say that chewing tobacco is per se harmful, has anyone banned it? You know, if you (authorities) ban it the whole problem would be over,” Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said.
The FSSAI, represented by advocate M Pracha, said there was no need to separately ban chewing of tobacco as the notifications banning ‘gutka’ covers this aspect as well. However, the ban is not being enforced or implemented, the lawyer said.
The court, on the other hand, observed that the notification only appeared to ban mixing of chewing tobacco with any eatable item or ‘pan masala’ and banned ‘gutka’.
The FSSAI did not agree with the observation and said that as chewing tobacco is an “unsafe food”, its sale would attract penal provisions.
The court was hearing an application moved by a tobacco manufacturing company seeking to amend its main petition challenging the notification banning ‘gutka’.
The company wanted to amend its main plea to also challenge the 2017 notification banning ‘gutka’ as the Delhi government comes out with such orders every year. The court issued notice to the Delhi government and FSSAI seeking their replies to the plea before the next date of hearing in the main petition on May 11.