The government pitched for a ban on all forms of chewing tobacco, gutka or supari laced with nicotine, saying these products fell under the prohibition prescribed under the food safety provisions.
“Gutka by its definition is a food added with nicotine and flavours” that is prohibited under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on sales) Regulations, 2011, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Indira Jaising told the apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice C. Nagappan.
Jaising said all form of non-smoking tobacco products were being marketed by misbranding them as mouth fresheners which were in fact unsafe and poisonous.
“You say that they are misbranding,” court noted, asking Jaising: “How many cases you have filed against them?”
She said the burden of implementing the prohibition at the first level lay on industry, but it “does not mean if they don’t do it then the government will not act”.
The ASG told the court that through their misbranding the chewing tobacco companies were targeting “youth and poor people”.
Addressing the question from the tobacco industry as to why government was banning gutka and not the cigarettes, the ASG said there was a tendency that people generally didn’t use cigarettes because these were expensive and “culturally chewing tobacco in India is an acceptable norm”.
Appearing for NGO Indian Asthma Care Society, counsel Prashant Bhushan drew the attention of the court to the diseases like cancer caused by chewing tobacco.
The court would next hear the case Oct 4.