The ban of products including pan masala and gutka will see Tamil Nadu revisiting a move it made in 2001 under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954, which also saw a number of other states outlaw tobacco in food.
However, tobacco companies then moved the Supreme Court to overturn the rulings, which it did, citing that only the central government was able to make such an order.
Once again, though, next week’s anti-tobacco move next week will come on the back of a Supreme Court deliberation to learn about the action taken by state governments to cut out tobacco use in their jurisdictions.
What makes the present ban legally tenable is that it relies on the Food Safety and Standards Act, which has provisions to prevent tobacco and nicotine from being used as ingredients in any food product. The State Food Safety Wing and the Tobacco Control Cell are likely to implement the ban, say officials.
Madhya Pradesh was the first to ban gutka and pan masala after the rules and regulations under the Food Safety and Standards Act were notified. Kerala, Gujarat and Mizoram followed soon. West Bengal joined the group most recently.
"In order to prevent various cancers cased by tobacco, the government has decided to ban such products," said chief minister J Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu’s state assembly this week.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey India released by the Indian health and family welfare ministry showed that about 16.2% of Tamil Nadu's population uses tobacco in one form or another. In Chennai alone, the incidence of mouth cancer has gone up by 20% in the last two decades, say health professionals.
However, critics have suggested there might be little appetite in the state for prosecuting offenders, based on figures that show the pan and gutka trade briefly went underground following the 2001 ban. Also, the state government will be hindered by a shortage of inspectors.