Following the cabinet nod, the Prithviraj Chavan government is expected to officially announce the decision in the legislature . While a gutka ban already exists in four states—Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh—Maharashtra will be the first to ban paan masala.
A senior cabinet minister said the decision was being taken in the interest of public health. Offenders can face jail time of six months to three years.
The state has witnessed a rise in the incidence of oral and other forms of cancer, since a sizeable population is addicted to such products. Health activists and NGOs have for long been pushing for the ban on the grounds that the addiction was claiming many lives every year.
Besides, what caught the attention of the Chavan-led government was a recent survey sponsored by it, which showed a significant rise in the consumption of gutka and other tobacco products among children in the 14-16 age group. At least 60% of the respondents said they were addicted to the two products.