West Bengal government extends ban on production and sale of gutkha and pan masala containing tobacco or nicotine for one year from November 7

Published : October 26, 2021 20:46 IST

A shop selling gutkha in Kolkata after the ban came into effect. A file photograph. Photo: ASHOKE CHAKRABARTY

Production and sale of gutkha and pan masala containing tobacco or nicotine will be banned in West Bengal for one year from November 7. The order, issued by the office of the Commissioner of Food Safety, Government of West Bengal, stated that the reason for the ban was that gutkha and pan masala were “articles of food in which tobacco and/or nicotine are used as ingredients” and could be injurious to health.

In the government notification, Tapan Kanti Rudra, Commissioner of Food Safety, West Bengal, stated: “…the Commissioner of Food Safety of the State is empowered under Section 30 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 to prohibit in the interest of public health, the manufacture, storage, distribution or sale of any article of food in the whole of State, for a period of one year…. in pursuance of regulation 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011, the manufacture, storage, sale or distribution of gutkha and pan masala containing tobacco and/or nicotine as ingredients, by whatsoever name it is available in the market, is hereby prohibited for a period of one year with effect from the 7th day of November, 2021 in the State of West Bengal, in the interest of Public Health.”

This latest ban on gutkha and other chewing-tobacco products is a continuation of a ban that was issued by the State government in 2013. Every year since then, it has been extending it. However, according to activists and doctors, the implementation of the ban leaves much to be desired as stalls across Kolkata have been seen to openly sell gutkha and other tobacco products.

In a study conducted by the Manbhum Anandashram Nityanand Trust (MANT), a non-government organisation that advocates against the use of tobacco, many vendors selling cigarettes and chewing tobacco in Bengal are not even aware of the ban on gutkha products. Dr Nirmalya Mukherjee, director, MANT, said: “We made a study in Kerala and West Bengal. We saw that while in Kerala the vendors were aware of the ban, the vendors in Bengal were comparatively less aware.” According to Dr Mukherjee, around 20.3 per cent of the adult population of West Bengal consumes chewing tobacco. “While smoking has come down by around 5 percentage points, the rate of decrease in chewing tobacco is far less—from 21.6 per cent to 20.3 per cent,” he said.