Chandigarh, September 23: Taking a serious view of the illegal sale of flavoured chewing tobacco with pan masala in state, Principal Secretary, Health & Family Welfare Anurag Aggarwal today directed Food Safety and other stakeholder departments to initiate stern action against vendors indulging in this wrong practice.
A meeting of the State level Co-ordination Committee to curb usage of tobacco and to ensure compliance of Anti-Tobacco Laws was held Monday at the committee room of Punjab Civil Secretariat-II.
Anurag Aggarwal said it was a matter of grave concern that some manufacturers were selling pan masala (without tobacco) with flavoured chewing tobacco in separate sachets but often conjoint and sold together by the same vendors from the same premises intentionally. He said sale of such products is illegal in the Punjab and no one would be spared under the Anti-Tobacco Laws.
He said a notification has already been issued by Punjab Government regarding prohibition on manufacturing, storage, sale or distribution of Gutkha/Pan Masala (containing tobacco or nicotine), Processed/Flavoured/Scented chewing tobacco and any other food product, containing Tobacco or Nicotine as ingredients by whatsoever name these are called final products and whether packaged or unpackaged and/or sold as one product or through packaged as separate products, available in the market is completely prohibited in Punjab.
He instructed the stakeholder departments to intensify the checking of vendors to stop the sale of tobacco with pan masalas and also asked them to take action under the Food Safety and Standard (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations. He said a circular had already been issued by Commissioner-Food Administration regarding cancellation of food license of premises if there is any storage/ sale of illegal tobacco products. He directed the meeting to submit the action taken report in this regard in the next meeting of State level Co-ordination Committee.
ACF, Food & Drug Administration Amit Joshi informed the meeting that as many as 54 samples of Tobacco and Masalas have been taken from January 2019 to August 2019 and 20 samples found non conforming with the standards. He said cases are in process to be launched in ADC courts. He also assured the meeting that Food Safety Department would launch the special drive to take samples across the state and violators would be booked for carrying illegal tobacco.
Anurag Aggarwal further said that sale of cigarette packet without having 85 percent of pictorial warning about tobacco causes cancer is also a crime. He directed the Excise Department to take strict action against the offenders.
Dr. Nirlep Kaur, State Programme Officer, National Tobacco Control Programme told the meeting that Punjab had banned Sale of e-cigarettes in the state. She said the instructions have been issued to the district level committees to book the shopkeepers those were selling or catering the e-cigarettes and also keep them under the scanner of health authorities.
She also said that Hookah bars have been permanently banned in the state after amendment in COTPA, 2003 (Punjab Amendment Act, 2018) and state wide checking is already being done to act against marriage palaces, hotels and restaurants violating the anti-tobacco laws.
She added that tobacco users have been availed the services of Tobacco Cessation centers. Free Tobacco cessation counseling and medicines like Bupropion, Nicotine gums and patches are being provided in these centers to the patients who want to quit using tobacco.
Dr. Avneet Kaur Director, Health & Family Welfare Department said that Punjab Government is collaborating TB programme along with Tobacco control Programme for addressing TB and tobacco use co-morbidity on pilot basis in some districts. The Cross referral mechanism has also been developed between the TB clinics and Tobacco cessation services.