Thiruvananthapuram: Taking a cue from Assam, which has banned consumption of harmful tobacco-based pan masala and gutka products, a cross section of people in Kerala have called for a similar legislation in the state.
People say the desired impact of the ban - of reducing the public health burden - cannot be achieved unless consumption is also prohibited.
"Since our state banned these products in 2012, we have been taking stringent action against violators," said K. Anil Kumar, commissioner for food safety, the regulating department for the effective implementation of the ban on pan masala and gutka.
"The smuggling of these products into our state has been a major challenge in implementing the effective ban on pan masala and gutka containing tobacco and nicotine.
"As such, any positive step in addition to this ban or strengthening this ban would be highly desirable. This would also help in curbing use among children in their vulnerable years," he said.
Kerala was the second state in the country after Madhya Pradesh to ban the manufacture, storage, sale or distribution of gutka and pan masala containing tobacco or nicotine as ingredients under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations 2011.
K. Ramadas of the Regional Cancer Centre here said that while oncologists and the medical fraternity at large can treat and provide care to the cancer afflicted, a legislative reform, as has been effected in Assam, would have far-reaching positive implications.
"Chewing tobacco, whether it is pan masala and gutka, is a major cause of cancer in the head and neck in Kerala," he said.
"I have seen several youngsters who have lost their taste buds, parts of their tongue and jawbones due to use of these smokeless tobacco products. This sorry state can be corrected to a great extent if Kerala can also legislatively ban the consumption of chewing tobacco products."
Assam has banned consumption of pan masala, gutka etc under the Assam Health (Prohibition of manufacturing, advertisement, trade, storage, distribution, sale and consumption of zarda, gutka, pan masala, etc, containing tobacco and/or nicotine) Act, 2013.
Vimala Menon, secretary of charity organisation Cheshire Home here, said that as someone who has seen the suffering of cancer victims in palliative care, "I feel that everything possible should be done to bring down cancer incidence in our state".
"Banning consumption of all forms of chewing tobacco products by law and imposing strict penalty on violators would be an effective move," Menon said.