Govt. counters ads saying Gutkha less harmful than tobacco: Azad

NEW DELHI: The health and family welfare ministry recently published a public notice highlighting the harmful effects of all forms of tobacco use and the desirability of quitting tobacco use in response to a few advertisements published in leading national and regional dailies raising questions on whether Gutkha was a food product.

Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told Parliament that the advertisements by a body named Smokeless Tobacco Association also implied that Gutkha was less harmful than smoking forms of tobacco. It said food safety regulations were discriminatory in nature.

The advertisement of pan masala (without tobacco or nicotine) is regulated by the food safety and standards (packaging and labelling) regulations, 2011, dated 1 August 2011, notified by the food safety and standards authority of India. Under sections 30 and 31 of this regulation, pan masala can be advertised subject to the condition that every package of pan masala and advertisement relating thereto carries the warning “Chewing of pan masala or supari is injurious to health."

Section 5 of The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA 2003) prohibits all forms of advertisements (direct/indirect) of tobacco products including gutka, except at the points of sale or on the tobacco product packs. Moreover, under food safety regulations, the production, sale, distribution and storage of food items such as gutka and pan masala containing tobacco or nicotine is prohibited.

Litigation on these issues are pending before the Supreme Court, the Minister said.

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