JAMMU, Feb 2: Jammu and Kashmir Voluntary Health and Development Association (J&K VHADA) has urged the state government to implement Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) law in J&K, where about 26.6 percent population is using tobacco product in one or the other of its form, as had already been done by 21 states in the country.
According to ‘The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) India 2009–10 released by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), in J&K 8.0 percent people use smokeless tobacco, 12 percent persons are cigarette smokers and 3.8 percent people are bidi smokers.
J&K VHADA has also filed a Public Interest Litigation in the J&K High Court seeking ban on manufacture, sale, storage and distribution of Gutka, Panmasala and other forms of chewing tobacco containing nicotine ingredients in the State.
The PIL is listed on Monday i.e., February 4 for hearing in the court. A prominent rights activist and lawyer Sajjad Geelani is representing J&K VHADA in the court of law.
Earlier the J&K High Court issued a notice on December 31, 2012 to the state government for its response on the PIL filed by J&K VHADA. Passing directions on the PIL, a division bench comprising Justices Virender Singh and Muzaffar Hussain Attar had asked the government to file response to the litigation seeking implementation of the Regulation 2.3.4 of FSSAI Regulations on gutka and other smokeless products in the state.
Reiterating the demand of J&K VHADA, Advocacy Consultant Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) Shafat N Ahmad stated that a total of 18 states Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Delhi, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Nagaland and 1 union territory Chandigarh have already banned the sale, manufacture and distribution of gutka, khaini, pan masala containing tobacco, based on the regulation issued on August I, 2011 by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), a statutory body under the health ministry to handle food related issues.
According to the rule 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011, “product not to contain any substance which may be injurious to health: Tobacco and nicotine shall not be used as ingredients in any food products”. Goa is the one state which has banned gutka under the State Public Health Act in the year 2002.
He added that Gutka was banned under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regulation no 2.3.4 to prohibit the addition of tobacco or nicotine in food (and thereby banning Gutka) which was issued on August 1, 2011.
“By banning gutka, the state government in the 20 states has demonstrated tremendous commitment towards safe guarding the health of people of India and protecting the masses, especially the youth from the growing menace of tobacco addiction. This praise worthy step will go a long way in saving lakhs of lives and also reducing the government spending on treating tobacco related diseases. We request that the Government of Jammu & Kashmir should also implement the FSSAI law in larger interest of younger generation who is falling prey to this tobacco menace and suffer premature death,” said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Executive Director, Voluntary Health Association of India.
According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) India, the estimated number of tobacco users in India is 274.9 million of which 25.9% are users of smokeless tobacco while 5.7% are cigarette smokers and 9.2% smoke bidi. This reveals that more Indians (almost 75%) consume smokeless forms of tobacco that includes pan, gutka, pan masala and khaini, mawa. Slowly and gradually the use of chewing tobacco is reaching at dangerously endemic levels in the country with 8 percent of all adults in the country chewing gutka.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) India 2009 – 10 released by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) conveys that about (26.6 percent) population of Jammu & Kashmir is using tobacco product in one or the other of its form. Jammu & Kashmir has 8.0 percent use smokeless tobacco, 12 percent cigarette smokers and 3.8 percent bidi smokers.
Notably, India has the highest prevalence of oral cancer globally, with 75, 000 to 80, 000 new cases of oral cancers in a year.
“Gutka sold in small pouches across the country has become a very serious health hazard. Easy availability and low prices makes it popular amongst youth and women. Due to its flavoured taste, easy availability and low price as well as the attractive marketing ploy by the companies, it is becoming increasingly popular among children as well,” stated a release issued by VHADA.
According to a health report submitted by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in consultation with National Institute of Health and Family Welfare on the ill-effects of chewing tobacco revealed that the number of oral cancer cases in India alone is 86 per cent of the oral cancer figures across the world. What is more shocking is that chewing tobacco and gutka contribute to 90 per cent of oral cancer cases in the country.
India spends approximately Rs 300 billion annually in both public and private spending on treatment of tobacco related illness, accounting for roughly one fourth of all health spending. The gutka market could be between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 crore in annual sales, added VHADA release.