Spitting it out

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- (Credit: AKHILESH KUMAR / CSE)the Chhattisgarh government is planning to ban gutka (chewing tobacco) from January next year.

Though talks of banning the flavoured chewing tobacco have been going on for the past two years, state health officials say the issue assumed urgency after a high concentration of magnesium carbonate, a toxic substance, was found in gutka.

Chief Minister Raman Singh has directed officials to put a total ban on the manufacture, storage, sale and advertising of gutka products in the state. Singh discussed the matter at a recent cabinet meeting and said thousands of schoolchildren and youths in the state were addicted to it.

A senior official at the State Health Resource Centre, V R Raman, says the department has recently apprised the government of its opinion on the matter. "However, the ban is at the discussion level," says Raman.

Health experts relate the disproportionate incidence of oral cancer in India to tobacco chewing. Apart from carcinogenic substances such as tobacco, gutka contains low amounts of magnesium carbonate, which can be toxic if ingested in large quantities.

There have been several attempts in the past to ban gutka in the country. The Central Committee of Food Standards recommended a national ban in 1997 but no action was taken. Maharashtra banned its use twice. The first ban was imposed on August 1, 2002 but the supreme court lifted it after two years. The Maharastra Food and Drugs Administration again imposed a ban in February 2005. But it soon fizzled out after the then food and drug commissioner was transferred.

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