Tuesday, December 7, 2010

India’s Top Court Bans Sale of Tobacco Products in India

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- India’s Supreme Court banned the sale
of tobacco products in plastic wrappers from March 1, citing
harm to public health and environmental damage from improper
disposal of the packets.
    The two-judge bench headed by Justice G.S. Singhvi also
directed the government to submit a report in eight weeks after
studying the harmful effects of gutka, a mixture of betel nuts,
tobacco and proprietary additives. The decision also applies to
pan masala, a non-tobacco product that has the same appearance,
taste and packaging.
    The court’s order may help discourage the use of gutka by
making it more expensive as manufacturers will be forced to seek
alternative ways of packaging, said Kaustav Ray, analyst at the
Hyderabad, India-based unit of Datamonitor Plc. The gukta is
mostly sold in the country in plastic packets and costs as
little as one rupee (2 cents) a sachet.
    Sales of chewing tobacco, valued at 210.3 billion rupees
($4.7 billion) in 2004, may double in India by 2014, according
to Datamonitor.
    Scientific studies have found that both gutka and pan
masala contain tumor-causing agents, said Pankaj Chaturvedi, a
surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital, Asia’s largest cancer
treatment center. The products contribute to making India the
“mouth cancer capital” of the world, he said.
    “There is already so much evidence showing that a number
of cancers are caused by these products,” Chaturvedi said in an
interview today. “For the environment, the plastic is bad. But
for the individual, the immediate danger comes from the
    The Supreme Court’s interim order came after petitioners
challenged a 2007 decision by the Rajasthan High Court which
banned the use of plastics for making gutka packets. The next
date for the hearing is March 9.

SC bans sale of gutkha in plastic pouches from March

Dec. 7 (PTI) -- The Supreme Court today ordered a ban on
the sale of tobacco products like gutkha and pan masala in
plastic pouches from March 2011, while asking the government to
conduct a survey on the ill effects of these products within
eight weeks.
    A bench of justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly also asked
the manufacturers to explore and decide by March next year on
the alternative material for packaging them.
    The bench issued the directions while brushing aside the
pleas of some of the gutkha manufacturers who feared that such a
direction could lead to closure of thousands of gutkha and pan
masala manufacturing units.
    "Let it come," the bench quipped when counsel for one of
the manufacturers claimed that the whole industry would come to
a standstill.
    Cigarettes, which are generally sold in paper packs, are
out of the ambit of this ban.
    While asking the government to conduct a survey on the ill
effects of these tobacco products, the bench also asked it to
examine the effects of packaging these products in plastics
pouches over human health.
    The bench recorded an undertaking from Solicitor General
Gopal Subramanium that the government would get the required
survey done by the National Institute of Public Health on the
harmful effects of gutkha, pan masala and other tobacco products
and also the adverse effects, if any, of the plastic pouches
used for packaging the material.
    The bench also directed the Centre to finalise and enforce
withing eight weeks the Plastic Management and Disposal Rules
    It rued that despite the rules having been framed in 2009,
the authorities are yet to enforce them.
    The bench passed the direction while adjudicating a
petition by a civil society, which has approached the apex court
challenging the alleged unbridled sale of gutkha and pan masala
material in the country, seriously impinging upon public health.