Smokeless tobacco ban

Smokeless tobacco ban
Highlights

In a major setback to the strong tobacco lobby in Assam, the Supreme Court, through a recent decision disposed off a case that challenged the legal validity of the Assam Health (Prohibition of Manufacturing, Advertisement, Trade Storage, Distribution, sale and consumption of Zarda,Gutkha, Pan-masala, etc containing Tobacco) Act, 2013.

In a major setback to the strong tobacco lobby in Assam, the Supreme Court, through a recent decision disposed off a case that challenged the legal validity of the Assam Health (Prohibition of Manufacturing, Advertisement, Trade Storage, Distribution, sale and consumption of Zarda,Gutkha, Pan-masala, etc containing Tobacco) Act, 2013.


The Assam Health Act, 2013 which is yet to be implemented, when passed by the State Assembly in 2013, generated positive response among the public but the tobacco lobby was up in arms over it.

Allegedly backed by tobacco companies, some petitioners moved the Gauhati Court and Supreme Court against the Act. However, they have now suffered a setback at the apex court.

Recently, the Supreme Court disposed of the case, stating that a similar issue is pending at the Gauhati High Court.

Hearing the writ petition no 383/2014 (Udai Chaurasia & Ors VS State of Assam), the apex court, in its judgment said that Gauhati High Court will do the needful for disposing of the matter and also asked
the High Court to expedite the hearing of the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1583/2014, so that the matter may be decided within three months time.

The Supreme Court also said, “We clarify that we have not considered this petition on merits and we are disposing of this petition simply because similar issue is pending in the High Court.”

The health conscious public of Assam has welcomed the verdict of the Supreme Court and is hopeful that Gauhati High Court will pronounce a time bound judgment in favour of the Assam Health Act, 2013.
Assam had became the first state in the country to ban all forms of smokeless tobacco.
Members of the civil society has welcomed this development and has termed it an important one.

"The Assam government had taken a positive move when it introduced the Assam Health Act 2013 to ban smokeless tobacco products, and we hope that we will get a positive result from Gauhati High Court and the Act will be back in the state soon," said Sabita Devi, a social activist and deputy director of the Guwahati based think tank, Centre for Environment, Social and Policy Research.

According to Sushmita Sarma, a school teacher strict implementation of the Assam Health Act, 2013 is the need considering growing use of smokeless tobacco products mainly pan masala and zarda mixture among students.

“The other day only I caught a student with five packets of pan masala and zarda. Earlier they used to have gutkha, but gutkha is ban now, however, if you mix pan masala with zarda with becomes gutkha only.
Considering such smart techniques of the tobacco companies, only strict implementation of Assam Health Act, 2013 (which ban even zarda and other forms of chewing tobacco) can save the students from the clutches of tobacco menace,” Sarma said.

According to the study on the, “Economic Burden of Tobacco Related Diseases in India” was conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use in Assam amounted to Rs 541 crores in the
year 2011 for persons aged 35-69, of which 47% was direct medical costs and 53% was indirect morbidity costs.

It may be mentioned that under the Assam Health (Prohibition of Manufacturing, Advertisement, Trade Storage, Distribution, sale and consumption of Zarda,Gutkha,Pan-masala,etc containing Tobacco) Act,
2013, anyone found consuming smokeless tobacco was supposed to be punished with fine of up to Rs 1000 for the first offence and Rs 2000 for the second and any subsequent offence or offences.

In case of offence committed by a company, the company as well as every person who at the time of the commission of the offence is in charge of and responsible for the conduct of the company’s business,was supposed to be deemed to be guilty of the offence and liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
Amarjyoti Borah
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