Other States

Voluntary groups in Rajasthan seek complete ban on tobacco products

After the Union Health Ministry’s appreciation of the ban on sale of tobacco products and spitting at public places in Rajasthan, voluntary groups working for tobacco control here have reiterated their demand for a complete ban on sale, distribution and advertisement of cigarettes and tobacco products. The groups said such a ban would help in containment of COVID-19.

The State government had last month banned the spitting of betel leaf, any chewable tobacco or non-tobacco products or sputum in public places and institutions under the Rajasthan Epidemic Diseases Act, 1957, which has now been replaced by an ordinance. The use of tobacco products was also banned under the ordinance.

Centre’s pat

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has congratulated the State government for these decisions and requested it to create widespread awareness about the harms of spitting at public places and consuming smokeless tobacco products. State Medical and Health Minister Raghu Sharma has received a letter from Dr. Harsh Vardhan in this regard.

Public health functionaries have also warned against the use of smokeless tobacco products, such as gutkha and pan masala, during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they increase the urge to spit, which contains bacteria. Sawai Man Singh Hospital’s surgical oncologist Suresh Singh said the virus was loaded in the droplets thrown in the air, risking the entire population in the sphere of influence.

Higher risk

Jayesh Joshi, secretary of the Banswara-based Vaagdhara group, urged the State government to impose a permanent ban on sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to protect people’s health and reduce their vulnerability to any kind of infection during the pandemic. He said the smokers and tobacco users were at a higher risk of infection, as the World Health Organisation had warned of virus transmission from hand to mouth while smoking.

The Pan Merchants’ Association has also extended its support to the demand, while affirming that a blanket ban on the sale of tobacco products would enable the youths to get rid of hazardous substances. Association’s president Gulab Chand Khoda said the pan shops and kiosks should be allowed to sell betel leaf, refreshments and non-tobacco items, which would help stop black marketing of gutkha.

Mr. Joshi said though the State government had decided to regulate sale and consumption of tobacco twice in the past, it was high time the manufacture, sale and distribution of tobacco products were completely banned. “The use of smokeless tobacco creates unhygienic environment which spreads contagious diseases. The government has to spend five times more than the revenue generated from these products on the tobacco victims.”

Though the State government had authorised municipal bodies in 2018 to regulate the sale of tobacco products, the vendors violating the rules paid a petty fine and went back to selling tobacco. Activists have also been pressing for the enforcement of vendor licensing mechanism with the framing of rules under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2021 1:14:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/voluntary-groups-in-rajasthan-seek-complete-ban-on-tobacco-products/article31645624.ece

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