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Ban raises tobacco prices
- Zarda and other items dearer after police crackdown on sale

Imphal, May 29: The prices of smokeless tobacco products have shot up since police launched drives to check the sale and consumption of the products in Manipur.

These items are now being sold surreptitiously by shopkeepers and traders.

The Okram Ibobi Singh government imposed a ban on the sale and consumption of smokeless tobacco products with effect from February 15 as part of a nationwide campaign for tobacco control.

The police now check trucks plying in and out of the state for these products.

They have also launched drives in and around all the nine district headquarters.

Assam Rifles yesterday seized two trucks and two Tata Sumos fully loaded with zarda from Larong village in Chandel district. The four drivers have been arrested.

The police on May 13 also seized two truckloads of zarda at Pallel in Thoubal district along the Imphal-Moreh road.

Despite the police drive, the items are available in Imphal and other towns, at a higher price.

“One can of Golden Tobacco is now sold at Rs 15 while prices of other items like Talab and zarda paan have also gone up. One zarda paan is now sold at Rs 15,” a shopkeeper in Imphal said.

Earlier, a can of Golden Tobacco was sold at Rs 10, though its MRP was Rs 6.30 while one zarda paan, which cost only Rs 5, is now sold at Rs 10.

According to a recent survey conducted by the World Health Organisation, 44 per cent of the adult population consumed smokeless tobacco, leading to a high rate of cancer. The government ban came more than five years after militant groups banned zarda, making it more effective.

“You cannot find the items easily these days. Unless you are a regular customer before the ban or you are known to the shopkeeper, you will find it hard to get the items,” a zarda paan seller said.

At the same time, the ban benefited many as they had shunned the habit of chewing tobacco.

“My wife and I used to chew zarda. Now it is difficult to get it. Even if you can get, it has become costlier. So we have decided to stop the habit. Indeed we are grateful to the government for banning it,” Maibam Tombi, a tobacco user, said.

But those who could not kick the habit are fuming because the ban has only increased the prices of the items.