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Renewed push for gutkha ban

Dec. 19: The Voluntary Health Association of Assam is pushing for a complete ban on the sale of gutkha, a form of chewing tobacco, by the state government.

The association has also expressed its satisfaction over the government’s recent directive to police to incorporate violations of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, in the monthly crime review for strengthening and ensuring effective implementation of the law and to track violations and penalise violators.

At present, the district administration, the Kamrup district tobacco control cells as well as various organisations are having a tough time implementing Sections 6 (a) and 6 (b) of the act.

While Section 6 (a) prohibits sale of tobacco products to and by persons aged below 18, Section 6 (b) prohibits sale of tobacco products within hundred yards of an educational institution.

Despite joint raids by the district administration and the district tobacco control cell on shops selling tobacco products near schools and colleges in several areas, they have not been able to keep shopkeepers from violating the law.

“We have been pushing for a complete ban on sale of gutkha by the state government here. In fact, gutkha has already been banned in 16 other states of the country and there is no reason why it cannot be banned here. We have discussions with the state government on this issue and we are glad that the government has directed the state police to include violations of the tobacco law in the monthly crime review. This, we hope, will prevent people from violating the law so blatantly in future. According to the order, the district magistrates and superintendents of police also have to sensitise the police personnel deployed in police stations and outposts regarding the legal provisions of this act,” the association’s executive secretary, Ruchira Neog, said.

According to the Population Based Cancer Registry (2006-08) under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Kamrup (metro) district has the second highest incidence of cancer among men in the country. The district also has the third highest incidence of cancer among women in the country. A substantial number of these cases are tobacco-related.

“Various organisations are demanding that gutkha be banned. The biggest problem is that an increasing number of people, particularly youngsters, are getting addicted to chewing tobacco. The fact that they can access it and cigarettes easily only adds to the problem. Chewing tobacco happens to be a leading cause of cancer. At present, the law prohibiting sale of tobacco near educational institutions is being strictly implemented, though violations continue,” Neog said.


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