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tobacco productsThe move comes following a recent Supreme Court order banning chewable tobacco products
Centre has issued a complete ban on sale of food products containing tobacco and nicotine as ingredients across India. These would include Gutka, Paan Masala, Zarda and tobacco-based flavoured mouth fresheners. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has written to all states for issuing strict directions for banning the production, promotion and sale of these food products.

The move came following a Supreme Court order dated September 23, 2016, banning chewing tobacco products. While Bihar, Karnataka, Mizoram, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh have issued orders in compliance of the apex Court's order; several states are yet to follow suit.

According to the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on sales) Regulations, 2011, issued by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), under the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006, tobacco and nicotine shall not be used as ingredients in any food products.

This meant a ban on all food products where tobacco is present as ingredient in the final product, whether going by the name of gutka, pan masala or zarda. "To circumvent the ban on the sale of gutka by FSSAI, instead of the earlier ready-to-consume mixes, chewing tobacco companies are selling Gutka in separate sachets to be mixed as one," said CK Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in his letter dated December 5, 2016.

Taking note of this, the Ministry has directed all states and union territories to comply with the ban on manufacture and sale chewable tobacco and nicotine. The manufacture, storage, distribution or sale of Gutka and Paan Masala containing tobacco or nicotine or any other products marketed separately containing tobacco or nicotine, whether packaged as separate products, sold or distributed in such a manner that easily facilitates mixing by the consumer is prohibited in the respective State's jurisdiction.

Tobacco use is the foremost preventable cause of death and disease in India, and globally. As per the Global Audit Tobacco Survey — India (GATS) 2010, over 20 crore Indians consume smokeless tobacco/chewing, making the consequent burden of mortality and morbidity due to consumption of smokeless tobacco very high in India. Available evidence suggests that India shares the maximum burden of oral cancer in the World.

"Remarkable work has been done to curb the tobacco menace in the country. Pictorial warnings that cover 85 per cent of the packing of tobacco products' has already been implemented. India consumes smokeless tobacco more than cigarettes, and needs immediate attention," said Mishra.