Manufacturers of flavoured arecanut and pan masala from across the state have challenged the ban imposed on production and sale of their products by the Food and Drugs Administration. Maharashtra is the only state in India where there is a prohibition on such items.
City-based Milan Supari, Zest Packers from Nagpur and Jaya Products have approached the Bombay High Court, seeking relief on the grounds that supari and pan masala are not harmful. The matter will come up for hearing on February 25.
"The Maharashtra government has taken a bold step in prohibiting the sale and use of all forms of arecanut. The order has been challenged by manufacturers of flavoured supari which is insensitive and unfortunate," said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head, department of head and neck cancer at Tata Memorial Hospital.
In July 2012, the FDA had issued a notification, banning gutkha in the state. The agency renewed the notification a year later, bringing flavoured arecanut and pan masala under its ambit. Citing several international studies, including researches by TMH and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, FDA had claimed the products caused cancer.
According to the three petitioners, the FDA ban is unjustified. They say arecanut, which has been grown and consumed for many years, is not harmful. The petition also contests that no other state in India has banned it.
Doctors have backed the ban and have called for stringent checks to prevent the products from seeping into the black market. Also, they opine that increased awareness about the harmful effects of the mouth freshners could lead to a conscientious decrease in their consumption by patrons.
They say the additives such as heavy metals, anti-caking agents, silver leaf, binders, flavours, scents, fragrances added to raw tobacco and arecanut to make appealing like nicotine are carcinogenic.
Dr Chaturvedi said, "Also, their consumption leads to hyper magnesia, cardiac arrest, metabolic abnormalities, reproductive health, gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases."