Govt seeks law dept opinion over fiat on chewing tobacco
Anti-tobacco groups threaten to go to court if changes are made
Tobacco manufacturers have submitted a representation to the health department seeking partial revocation of the ban. While the circular states that there would be a ban on sale, storage and manufacture of the product, manufacturers have sought permission for its manufacture.
Shalini Rajneesh, principal secretary, department of health and family welfare, said the request has now been sent to the law secretary to understand the legal implications of the changes they have sought. “Their contention is also being considered. They fear their livelihood will be affected if all units are shut,” she added.
K V Dhananjay, who is fighting the case for Cancer Patients Aid Association, criticised the move and said that any changes would only bring down the impact of the circular.
“We are the mouth cancer capital of the country. The government had said that it would stop manufacture of chewing tobacco and it should not be going back on this now. If any changes are made, we will take the matter to the court yet again,” he added.
Another source, working for an anti-tobacco forum, said that it would be a matter of shame if the state government went back on this now. “The state government submitted to the Centre and Supreme Court that we have effectively implemented the ban. The Union government also sent a letter congratulating the state. It is not right to go back on the decision now,” the source added.
The matter, he said, aggravated after the health minister called for a meeting with members of the anti-tobacco rally and tobacco manufacturers to discuss on the issue.
In an ammendment that was made to the Food Safety and Securities Act in 2011, it was said that tobacco or nicotine could not be considered food and hence had to be banned. Following this, the Supreme Court and Union government wrote to state governments saying chewing tobacco should be banned.
Tobacco consumption in Karnataka constitutes 28% of the country’s consumption. Out of this, 20% is chewing tobacco, according to statistics available with the government.