The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Puff sale bar at Writers'
- Cigarette, paan vendors stock lozenges and cucumbers

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will now have to stock up on his cigarettes at work. For, if he runs out of cigarettes at Writers' Buildings, the next pack is no longer a shout away.

Starting April 1, sale of all tobacco products has been banned in Writers' Buildings.

The public works department (PWD), in an order dated March 28, prohibits all 22 food and tea stalls within Writers' from selling cigarettes, bidi, pan masala and even paan.

While renewing its annual licensing agreement with the stalls, the department has, for the first time, put in this no-sale clause.

Monday was the first full working day at Writers' with no sale of cigarettes in sight, and the seven shops dealing in tobacco wore a deserted look.

And if the chief minister is forced to stock up on cigarettes, Firoze Ahmed, who runs a paan/bidi stall in E block on the ground floor, has been asked to stock biscuits and lozenges, instead.

'What can I do' Everyone who comes here is looking for cigarettes,' grumbled Firoze. 'Who will have biscuits and sweets here' This is an office store, not a para shop.'

For Amar Singh in Block 4 of Writers', the Monday morning blues just refused to fade.

His daily sales plummeted from Rs 3,000 to Rs 800. 'I used to sell at least 500 paans daily. Today, I've been forced to keep cucumber. But even these aren't selling,' he complained.

The ban drew mixed reactions from some members of the chief minister's team.

Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee 'welcomed' the ban, having quit smoking 'five years ago due to acute laryngitis'.

'Now I cannot tolerate even passive smoke,' said the minister, who last year had tabled a proposal before the chief minister to declare Writers' a 'no-smoking' zone.

'I had proposed that every department have a smoking zone, armed with exhaust fans, outside which nobody would be allowed to light up. The proposal never saw the light of day,' rued Chatterjee.

Land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah has taken the ban to heart.

'I haven't smoked for the past three days, since my officers told me about this ban on the sale of tobacco at Writers'. Let's see how long I can manage without a smoke,' said Mollah.

Their team leader, of course, is not known to have made any such effort to beat the puff.

'I can't give up smoking,' Bhattacharjee had said recently, despite apparent pressure from daughter Suchetana to stub out the habit.

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