Shillong, Aug. 20 (PTI): The Centre has directed Meghalaya and two other northeastern states to impose a ban on all forms of processed/flavoured smokeless tobacco to save people from oral cancer, an official said today.
“Please pass necessary notification under Regulation 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 to implement the ban on all forms of processed/flavoured/scented chewing tobacco,” Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said in a letter to chief minister Mukul Sangma recently, the official said.
Similar instructions were also issued to the chief ministers of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
Seeking to report to the ministry after passing the order in this regard, Harsh Vardhan said this is to ensure safe and wholesome food to people.
It was endorsed by Allahabad High Court that tobacco is food.
The Union minister, however, said all forms of tobacco cause oral cancer and the ban would save the people of Meghalaya in particular and the region in general from its dreadful effect.
According to the global adult tobacco survey of 2010, conducted by the ministry of health and family welfare in association with the World Health Organisation, 55 per cent of the population in Meghalaya consume tobacco in some form or the other, while the national consumption rate of tobacco products is 34 per cent.
“The substances, whether going by the name or form of gutkha or zarda, may be banned under provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006,” Vardhan said in his letter earlier this month.
“Smokeless tobacco is the most prevalent form with 206 million Indians using it. The consequent burden of mortality and morbidity because of consumption of smokeless tobacco is very high in India,” he said.
The Union health minister also stated that sweet-flavoured processed smokeless tobacco is attracting vulnerable groups like women and children. Meanwhile, health and family welfare commissioner and secretary M.R. Synrem said the state has banned gutkha and pan masala.