The Centre today favoured banning of all kinds of gutka saying the poor are vulnerable to it but expressed reservation on banning cigarette as it is not "affordable to everyone".
The government told the Supreme Court that manufacturing and selling of gutka must be banned as they contain addictive and harmful substances even they don't contain tobacco.
"We are making distinction between smokeless tobacco and cigarette. Everyone can afford gutka but not everyone can afford cigarette. The target group of gutka is poor people. Chewing tobacco is also acceptable in our society," Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising told a bench headed by Justice G S Singhvi while favouring ban on gutka.
She also said that money spent by the government on controlling disease caused due to tobacco products far outweigh the revenue generated to it from tobacco products.
She submitted that no regulation or notification is required from the government for banning gutka products as the provision is there in Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations.
"The duty is cast upon the manufacturer and business operators not to sale any product which is not safe.
"It is important to stop production and sale of gutka. All kinds of paan masala and gutka contain addictive substance which is being projected as lifestyle and desirable product. They are sold as mouth fresheners. Burden is on industry. They have to stop manufacturing," Jaising contended.
Expressing concern over tobacco consumption, the court said it has to be seen in a socio-economic aspect of society. It said in rural areas people consume it for killing hunger.
"This is the product which gives you ticket for your next journey," the bench said when it was told that India has emerged as the capital of mouth cancer.
In spite of the regulation, companies subvert the ban by selling tobacco-less pan masala and sachets of tobacco separately.
On April 3, the apex court had asked all states and UTs to file compliance reports on the implementation of the ban on gutka products.