AAP's tobacco fix: Label it food item, then ban it

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The Health Department of the Delhi government has recommended that the Centre amend the definition of food and label tobacco as a food item in the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006.

“It is mentionable that no government will allow to put anything inside the mouth which is a poison or a toxic substance. If we modify the definition of ‘food’ by saying that ‘a substance’ which is put into the mouth for the purpose of consumption fully or partially, by methods like chewing, sucking or any other method may be labelled as a Food Item,” Additional Director Health, Government of Delhi, S K Arora stated in a letter he sent to the Union Health Ministry.

The recommendation was made in reference to the 2011 regulation, which had prohibited the consumption of any substance as food, which contains tobacco or nicotine as an additive substance.

“Thus, all kinds of chewable tobacco whether raw, scented, flavoured or any other will automatically get banned permanently through a Central Act for which no state will have to issue repeated notifications and which usually lands up in the court because of the tobacco industry’s interference,” Arora was quoted by PTI as saying.

Arora further stated that the consumption of tobacco in India, has remarkably increased after the Bollywood celebrities have started endorsing pan masala and other such tobacco products.

AAP government after coming to power, in February 2015, had issued a notification, to ban chewable tobacco. But the notification was never brought into action as the manufacturers of tobacco had filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court.

“The previous notification lapsed its one year term but the court could not give a concrete decision on this matter. However, Delhi Government on its commitment to public health revised the notification on April 13, 2016 after the lapse of the previous notification. But this time also this notification has been challenged in the High Court and is due for hearing on May 3,” Arora was quoted by PTI as saying.

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