Pune: Banning gutka and pan masala, has not only proved fruitful in the state, but has also earned a special recognition for Maharashtra Food and Drugs Administration commissioner Mahesh Zagade. The FDA commissioner has been selected by World Health Organisation (WHO) in the South-East Asia region for ‘World Tobacco Day-2014’. He is one of the six persons, who will receive the award for his contribution towards controlling tobacco addiction. It was on July 18, 2012, that the Maharashtra state government issued a notification banning the sale and consumption of gutkha and pan masala in the state. Maharashtra was the first state in the country to take this step that irked the pan masala manufacturers leading to almost 20 writ petition.
To make it difficult for manufacturers and distributors of the tobacco products to obtain a stay on the ban, the FDA, which initiated the proposal, invoked stringent provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.
“We tested 115 samples of gutka and pan masala of which 99 showed excess magnesium carbonate. We made this as our tool to fight against the manufacturers,” said Zagade. According to the fine print, the manufacture, storage, distribution and sale of gutka—found to contain nicotine, tobacco and magnesium carbonate—is banned in the state. Same with paan masala.
The FDA has continued to stringently implement the ban in the state and from July 2012 til date, it has seized Rs33 crore worth of contraband.
According to FDA, the manufacturing of smokeless tobacco products is under control. It is now focusing on the products being sneaked in the state.