Gutkha ban `discriminatory`, cigarettes still sold: STA

New Delhi: With 14 state governments banning gutkha, an association working for the welfare of smokeless tobacco growers has termed the ban as "discriminatory", saying cigarettes and beedis were still being sold in the market.

Smokeless Tobacco Association also said the sale of gutkha cannot be banned under the Food Safety and Standards Regulation Act-2011 as it has been done now, as gutkha has been classified as a tobacco product under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act-2003 (COTPA).

Members of the association met Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and explained to him how the ban on gutkha in 14 states, as advised by the Centre, was affecting the lives of four crore people who eke out their living by growing tobacco, said CK Sharma, a member of the association.

Sharma, who was part of the delegation that met Azad, said the Health Ministry has promised to set up a sub-committee to look into the issue and come up with suitable recommendations.

He said gutkha has now been banned after the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India classified it as a food product and advocated its ban.

"This is discriminatory because cigarette and beedi, which have more tobacco content than gutkha, are being sold freely while gutkha is banned. The ban should be removed as gutkha is not a food product," Sharma said.

However, he said gutkha manufacturers were open to any kind of regulation under the COTPA and noted that they were already complying with rules that make it mandatory to print a statutory and a pictorial warning.

The states which have banned sale of gutkha are Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra, Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi and Goa.