BHUBANESWAR: Waking up to the threats and consequences of high rate of tobacco consumption in the population, the Odisha Government is planning to impose a total ban on manufacture and sale of gutkha in the State. Odisha will become the second State in the country after Madhya Pradesh to invoke the Food Safety and Standards (prohibitions and restriction on sales) Regulation, 2011 for doing away with the “gutkha menace”.
Madhya Pradesh has gone ahead with banning tobacco, magnesium carbonate and nicotine-based gutkha from the start of this month.
The issue assumes importance as Odisha is a predominantly chewing-tobacco consumption State and chewing tobacco is the single largest cause of cancer. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), more than 43 per cent of the population uses chewable tobacco in some form or the other.
Though no specific data on incidence of chewing tobacco-induced cancers such as oral, pharynx, throat and stomach is available, records at the Acharya Harihar Regional Cancer Centre reveal that these account for more than 40 per cent of the total cases.
Over 10,000 new oral cancer patients are admitted to the hospital every year. “The move is aimed at containing the increase in incidence by striking at the roots as gutkha is the most popular form of chewing tobacco. We are awaiting for some clarifications on the classification of tobacco-based products from the Central Advisory Committee. Once that comes in, the issue would be pushed ahead with full force”, Director, Public Health, Dr P C Sahoo, said.
The regulation 2.3.4 under the FSSAI Act states that, “a 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”. As per the definitions and the new rules notified, products and food items containing tobacco such as gutkha, khaini, tobacco tooth paste etc fall under the purview of FSSAI.
The move has been welcomed by anti-tobacco campaigners. “Gutkhas sold in small pouches have huge popularity, even consigning the predominant paan to the sidelines.
Due to its flavoured taste, easy availability, ease of carrying and low price, its acceptance has soared, resulting in initiation from very early ages. Banning this product would set the stage for strict enforcement of Tobacco Control Laws”, project coordinator of VHAI-Aparajita, Itishree Kanungo said.