The State government has imposed a blanket ban on the manufacturing and sale of gutka/pan masala in the State.
It became the second State after Madhya Pradesh to ban these products; at 22.5 per cent VAT, the banned products earned Rs 15 crore in annual revenues.
The Chief Minister, Mr Oommen Chandy, announced the ban to newspersons here. It was invoked under provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Regulation Act, 2011.
Increasing incidence of allegedly gutka-induced diseases such as oral cancer prompted the government to act, Mr Chandy said. No efforts would be spared to enforce the ban. Any violation would be dealt with sternly, he added.
Mr Chandy had written to the Prime Minister in July seeking a total ban on gutka/pan masala across the country. But the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare wrote to States in April that they had the powers to ban the products under the Food Safety Act, 2011.
Specifically, Rule 2.3.4 of the regulation reads: “Product not to contain any substance which may be injurious to health; tobacco and nicotine shall not be used as ingredients in any food products.”
The ban was notified on May 22 by the Commissioner of Food Safety, Kerala.
It prohibits manufacture, storage, distribution and sales of these products which contain tobacco and nicotine, in whatsoever name it is available in the market today.
A coordinated effort is needed to strictly enforce the ban, the Chief Minister said. “The ban will be successful only if it is implemented in letter and spirit. We will work with stakeholders to achieve this.”
The Health Minister, Mr V.S. Sivakumar, said the banned products are not just favoured by people from poor socio-economic background.
“Today, school and college going students are the biggest consumers, which is a serious matter,” he added.
The Health Ministry will work with the education department to ensure that the ban is strictly implemented and monitored, Mr Sivakumar said.