Cigarettes are still available, but popular alternatives such as gutkha, pan masala, and kharra cannot be manufactured, stored, or sold in the national capital. A notification issued by the Food Safety Commissioner for the National Capital Region said the prohibition is “in the interest of public health.” The ban extends to any tobacco products “flavoured, scented or mixed with any of the said additives.“
Both gutkha and pan masala have been the subject of controversy in many parts of India. In Tamil Nadu, gutkha was the centre of a multi-crore bribery scandal in which numerous officials including the state health minister were implicated. Meanwhile, actor Pierce Brosnan was issued a show cause notice by officials in Delhi after appearing in an advertisement for pan masala.
Efforts in Delhi to curb the menace of tobacco have not just included the ban on certain forms of tobacco, but also aiming to reduce citizens’ exposure to secondhand smoke. The public health interest involved cannot be understated. 28.6 percent of Indian adults and 14.6 percent of Indian youth currently use tobacco. Meanwhile, 38.7 percent of Indian adults and 21.9 percent of Indian youth are exposed to secondhand smoke. This is contributing to the spread of numerous diseases, including lung and oral cancer.