Shillong: The Centre has directed Meghalaya and two other states in the North East region to impose ban on all forms of processed/flavoured smokeless tobacco to save people from oral cancer, an official said today.
"Please pass necessary notification under Regulation 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 to implement the ban on all forms of processed/flavoured/scented chewing tobacco," Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a letter to Chief Minister Mukul Sangma recently, the official said.
Similar instructions were also issued to the chief ministers of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh.
Seeking to report to the Ministry after passing the order in this regard, Vardhan said this is to ensure safe and wholesome food to people which was also endorsed by the Allahabad High Court that tobacco is food.
The Union Minister, however, said all forms of tobacco causes oral cancer and the ban would save people of Meghalaya in particular and the region in general from the dreadful effect.
According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), 2010 conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in association with the World Health Organisation (WHO), 55 per cent population of Meghalaya consume tobacco in some form or other, while national consumption rate of tobacco products is 34 per cent.
"The substances, whether going by the name or form of gutkha, zarda, may be banned under provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006," Vardhan said in his letter earlier this month.
"Smokeless tobacco is the most prevalent form with 206 million Indians using it as such consequent burden of mortality and morbidity due to consumption of smokeless tobacco is very high in India," he said.
The Union health minister also stated that sweet-flavoured processed smokeless tobacco is attracting vulnerable groups like women and children.
Meanwhile, Health and Family Welfare Commissioner and Secretary M R Synrem said that the state has banned gutka and pan masala.