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Jorhat digs deep to fight tobacco threat

Jorhat, July 25: The Jorhat district tobacco control cell, chaired by the district deputy commissioner, has started constituting block-level committees.

Jorhat was the first district in the state to impose a fine in 2011 for smoking in public places, under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products, Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution Act, 2003.

Till date, Rs 60,000 has been collected as fine for violation of the national anti-tobacco law and those penalised include a serving commissioner-level officer of the Assam government and an army officer of the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Smoking in public places, selling of tobacco products within 100 yards of an educational institute and selling tobacco products to minors are offences under the anti-tobacco law and offenders can be penalised by a fine up to Rs 200 for each violation.

Senior officials of the health, food and civil supplies department, superintendent of police, inspector of schools, district elementary officer and a representative of an NGO are members of the cell.

Bhaktimoy Bhattacharjee, nodal officer of the Jorhat district tobacco control cell, who is also a senior district medical officer, told this correspondent that the decision has been taken to sustain, spread and monitor the anti-tobacco campaign across the district.

Bhattacharjee said in order to sustain the campaign, spread it to new areas and to provide proper guidance, a unit of the district-level cell was needed at the micro level.

He said a block-level committee, to be headed by the block development officer and having officers of other government departments and public representatives as its members, is expected to augment the campaign.

The members of the committee will include elementary education officer, veterinary officer, medical officer at the block level, officer-in-charge of the local police station as well as the president and secretary of the respective panchayats. The headmaster or headmistress of the tobacco-free school (if declared by the district cell) too will be members of the committee.

Bhattacharjee said police personnel will assist the committee to penalise offenders under the law.

The nodal officer said a training programme for police officers (sub-inspector and below) and their subordinates on imposing fines under the law and about legal aspects of the anti-tobacco law was conducted by the district cell at Jorhat Police Reserve on July 23.

He said such training programmes were also being organised at the police station level.

Bhattacharjee said two block-level committees at Baghchung and Dhekargora blocks had been formed this month and other such committees would be constituted in the remaining six blocks in the district soon.

As part of the awareness drives against tobacco, namghar (religious community halls) management committees were given presentations. Similar presentations will be given to mosque management committees in the district, Bhattacharjee said.

Charaibahi Higher Secondary School on the southwestern outskirts here was the first school in the state to be declared tobacco-free in September 2009.

Till date, the Jorhat cell has declared 84 educational institutes in the district as tobacco-free and the list includes a madarsa here.

Four xatras in Majuli and one in Teok have been declared tobacco-free since 2012.