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Friday, 19 July, 2002, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Indian ban on chewing tobacco
Various brands of chewing tobaccos
Court has also banned publicity for pan masalas
A court in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has banned highly-popular chewing tobacco and breath fresheners on the basis that they could cause mouth cancer.

Such products form part of a very old tradition in India, and are considered good for digestion and breath freshening.

The court ban covers all chewing tobacco - known as gutkha - as well as non-tobacco products made with ingredients such as betel nuts, also known as paan masala.

The court ruling also prohibits any publicity for such products.

The ruling - in what is India's most populous state - will be welcomed by health activists who have been campaigning for a national ban on such products.

Popular choice

Betel leaf can be prepared by people in their house or, one can get it from a shop located almost on every road crossing or corner in the country.

Chewing tobaccos being packaged
Gutkha is imported into the UK from South Asia

Ready-made paan masala packaged in sleek polythene sachets contains betel nut, flavourings, lime, tobacco and other ingredients.

Health activists say the cheap and easy availability of such products has led to a whopping increase in the number of people getting addicted to them.

Since it is also produced at home sometimes at a very low cost, there is no effective control on quality.

Health concerns

Various reports say tobacco-related diseases kill nearly one million people in India .

Health experts believe chewing tobacco is responsible for a large number of such deaths.

Chewing tobacco can cause mouth cancer

Thursday's court order in Uttar Pradesh cited scientific tests which have proved that chewing tobacco contains carcinogenic substances.

Calls for a nation-wide ban on these products have been growing over the years - although producers of chewing tobacco have tried to block such moves.

Moral pressure

The court ruling came following a petition filed by a Kanpur-based industrialist challenging his arrest on charges of making fake paan masala.

The manufacturers can appeal in the Supreme Court against the high court order.

Health campaigners say the latest court order may increase moral pressure on other state governments to initiate similar bans on more pan masala products.

Uttar Pradesh is the second state to iintroduce such a ban this week.

On Wednesday, Maharshtra also banned such prodcuts following prolonged legal proceedings.

See also:

03 Mar 99 | Health
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