Monday, 30th October 2017

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Harsh Vardhan prods Assam to ban tobacco

He has also urged the state health minister to make people aware of not spitting in public

By Rokibuz Zaman in Guwahati
  • Published 22.05.20, 2:44 AM
  • Updated 22.05.20, 2:44 AM
  • 2 mins read
Health minister Harsh Vardhan (PTI)

Union minister for health and family welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan has urged Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to completely ban the sale of tobacco products and spitting in public places in the state.

Vardhan has written to Sarma urging them to create widespread awareness in the state about the harm of spitting in public places and implement scrupulously and effectively the directions of ministry of home affairs in this regard, to check the spread of Covid-19 infection.

Vardhan said “Tobacco use is a major threat to public health globally. Smokeless tobacco users have a tendency to spread in public places or otherwise and therefore, increase the risks, especially of spreading infectious and contagious diseases like Covid-19, tuberculosis, swine flu and encephalitis. The use of smokeless tobacco also creates unhygienic environment which further spreads these diseases. Large gatherings at the retail outlets where smokeless tobacco products are sold also pose the risk of spread of Covid-19.”

“We applaud the Assam government for timely ban on the sale of tobacco products and spitting in public places in the state. We appeal to the government for levying stringent penalties against violators to prevent and control the spread of Covid 19. We urge the government for strict implementation to protect the health of the people of Assam and reduce their vulnerability to Covid-19 infection,” said advocate Ajoy Hazarika, secretary, Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam.

Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has also appealed to the general public not to consume and spit smokeless tobacco products in public as “chewing smokeless tobacco products (gutka, pan masala with tobacco, paan and other tobacco products) and areca nut (supari) increase the production of saliva followed by a very strong urge to spit.

Spitting in public places could enhance the spread of the Covid-19 virus, it said.

The guidelines on May 1, issued by the ministry of home affairs under National Disaster Management Act, 2005 stipulate that “spitting in public places shall be punishable with fine, as may be prescribed and consumption of liquor, paan, gutka and tobacco in public places is not allowed.” Health experts say the use of smokeless products is particularly problematic during the pandemic because it increases the urge to spit, and the entire virus is loaded into that saliva and the droplets are then thrown in the air. This risks the entire population in the sphere of influence or radius.”