The app-based delivery service Dunzo has stopped sales of cigarettes and other items categorized as “paan” on its platform for Android users, the company said in a notice. “Paan items have been discontinued on the Android app,” the company told users on the Android app. “Use our website Dunzo.com to get Paan Shop items delivered to your doorstep.” Paan is Dunzo’s cigarette category. The category, along with cigarette listings from partnered retail outlets, are still available on iOS and desktop.
“In accordance with Google Play store policy, delivery apps can no longer list tobacco products, hence they have been delisted from the Android app,” a spokesperson from Dunzo told MediaNama over email.
It is unclear why only Android has been removed. While Dunzo has not responded to a request for comment as of this story going out, it is likely that a Developer Program Policy that Google released on January 20 is behind the change. According to that policy,
We [Google Play] don’t allow apps that facilitate the sale of tobacco (including e-cigarettes and vape pens) or encourage the illegal or inappropriate use of alcohol or tobacco.
Mohan Raj, a Dunzo delivery agent in Chennai, said that around one fourth of his orders each day are cigarette deliveries. Cigarettes are taxed enormously by the government, with smokers ending up paying around 300% in GST and other taxes, according to a Lok Sabha response. As such, it follows that delivery charges aren’t a material cost addition to many smokers. Dunzo’s UI bears testament to this: “Paan Shop” sits as an entire category on the platform, alongside “Meat & Fish”, “Medicines”, “Health & Wellness”, “Pet Supplies”, “Groceries”, “Restaurants”, “Fruits & Vegetables”, and “Gifts and Lifestyle”. It follows that cigarette sales contribute to a sizable volume of its orders.
In any case, Dunzo’s discontinuation even on Android is not total: users can still type out paan items and have them fulfilled from a shop manually. What is gone, though, are product listings for these items from partnered retail stores, where users can select products for delivery from the store’s own catalogue. Tobacco Free Kids, a US-based advocacy group, said in a press release that 179 organisations had urged Google to make the policy change that may have led to this decision by Dunzo in October 2020. Google is an investor in Dunzo.
While advocacy and Google may have led to Dunzo no longer selling cigarettes, it was individual state regulators that discouraged it from alcohol sales. When Dunzo started operating, it was selling alcohol in states like Maharashtra and Karnataka; however, at least in the latter state, deliveries stopped in 2018 after excise officials stepped in.
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Update (April 23, 2021 3:45pm). Updated with statement from Dunzo spokesperson. Originally Published on April 23, 2021 1:01 pm.