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Sale of paan masala should be banned, suggest experts

24,July, 2017

Pune: Doctors and experts have objected to the granting of permission for sale of flavoured supari or areca nut popularly known as paan masala.

In a statement, experts and medical practitioners claimed that the new notification allowing the sale of flavoured supari or areca nut issued by the FDA Maharashtra on July 17 has shocked public health experts and the medical fraternity.

"Studies by the World Health Organization and several other groups in the country have provided evidence that consuming paan masala leads to serious health hazards including mouth and throat cancer. All the research material have already been submitted to the FDA several times in the last five years. Our state is bound to become a laughing stock if the ban on paan masala is lifted," Pankaj Chaturvedi, representing the Tata Memorial Hospital, said.

Maharashtra was the first state to ban gutka and paan masala in July 2012. The prohibition was challenged by the gutka industry in the Bombay High Court but to no avail. The special powers granted by Food Safety Act to the food commissioner to ban a harmful substance for a maximum period of one year helped in enforcing the ban.

Successive FDA commissioners not only renewed the notification but also widened the scope of the ban to cover flavoured supari (without tobacco). But the ban was renewed each year by issuing a new notification.

Following the ban on gutka, paan masala gained popularity and is still being sold in the state. The marketing strategy targets nearly two crore smokeless tobacco users as potential consumers, the statement added.

On July 1, 2016, public health institutions petitioned chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to ban flavoured supari permanently.

The director (academics) of the Tata Memorial Hospital, Kailash Sharma, in his letter to Fadnavis said, "We sincerely urge you to continue the ban on flavoured chewing tobacco and flavoured supari (paan masala) permanently to save our future generation. Currently, the ban is applicable for only one year and it has to be renewed annually."

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