Even as nine States have taken the initiative to ban tobacco products like gutka and pan masala, Andhra Pradesh will take a month to formulate an effective strategy to implement the ban. A three-member team is proposed to be sent to the neighbouring States to study the ban orders and steps taken to enforce it.

Praveen Prakash, Commissioner, Public Health, almost let down family members of the tobacco victims who favoured an immediate ban. “Without a proper implementation plan the ban will only boomerang,” he remarked even as he agreed that there was no second opinion about the health hazards of tobacco.

At a press conference here on Wednesday, he said both health education and enforcement was necessary to check the tobacco menace. The team would study the legal issues involved and come up with an effective plan, Mr. Prakash assured.

Leading doctors from various cancer hospitals highlighted the severe threat posed by tobacco and urged the government to ban it with immediate effect.

“That it causes only cancer is a myth. It causes a variety of ailments including heart disease,” said P. Vijay Anand Reddy, director, Apollo Cancer Hospitals. Director of MNJ Institute of Oncology, Kannan, director of oncology, Kamineni Hospitals, Ashwin M. Shah, and regional director, Voluntary Health Association of India, Seema Gupta, reeled out the statistics to show the threat posed by tobacco.

Out of total 29.2 per cent adult tobacco users in A.P, 11.8 per cent used smokeless form (gutka and pan masala) of tobacco and 3.3 per cent both smoking and smokeless forms. Tobacco users among women accounted for 18.8 percent. Nearly 10 lakh persons died every year of cancer caused by tobacco, they said.

Banning gutka and pan masala was now easy as they came under the food category and as per Food Safety and Standards Authority of India no food product could contain tobacco and nicotine.

The loss of productive man power due to tobacco menace was much more than the loss in revenue due to its ban, pointed out Ms. Gupta.

A housewife, Kavita, gave an account of the trauma she underwent when her husband developed cancer of mouth while a young girl, Shobana, turned misty eyed recalling the pain and anguish when her father was down with cancer. They presented a representation to Mr. Prakash to implement the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (COPTA) Act, 2003, in the State.

Keywords: tobacco ban

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