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Call to implement tobacco ban without further delay

By City Correspondent

GUWAHATI, March 5 - Despite strict tobacco control laws adopted by the State government, the number of tobacco consumers has increased to a large extent, prompting the Consumers� Legal Protection Forum (CLPF) and other organisations to call upon the government to implement the ban on smokeless tobacco products (SLT) in the State immediately.

According to data released by the Dr B Borooah Cancer Institute (BBCI), more than one crore people in the State consume tobacco and tobacco products. Out of them 13.3 lakh people consume cigarettes, 18.8 lakh people consume bidis and 91 lakh consume smokeless tobacco products, the CLPF said in a statement today.

�The rise in the number of tobacco users, especially smokeless, in the State is a cause of worry and it is easily accessible to children and youths,� CLPF secretary advocate Ajoy Hazarika said.

�The prevalent misconception related with smokeless tobacco products (SLT) is that it is considered to be safer than smoking. This could be on the ground of its usage in terms of initiation and persistence. We appeal to the government to implement the SLT ban order as early as possible,� he added.

Nearly 32,000 cancer cases are detected in the State every year, of which 70 per cent are found at an advanced stage, leading to a high mortality rate of 40-50 per cent, stated the Assam Cancer Care Foundation (ACCF).

In-charge, Department of Preventive Oncology, BBCI Dr Srabana Misra Bhagabaty said, �SLT consumption is increasing alarmingly because of easy availability and social acceptance. We have seen many young people suffering from malignant lesions related to SLT use and even increase in tobacco-related cancers.�

According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2 report, around 48.2 per cent of all adults in Assam, of whom 62.9 per cent are men and 32.9 per cent women, either smoke tobacco or use smokeless tobacco. And 42.6 per cent men and 28.7 per cent women are daily smokeless tobacco users. Use of smokeless tobacco still prevails in society and 50.5 per cent men and 32.5 per cent women and 41.7 per cent of all adults currently use smokeless tobacco.

Ashim Sanyal of Consumer Voice said, �For people to lead a more healthy and productive life, the government should implement the SLT ban order as both tobacco and nicotine products will be out.�

The ban, which comes into immediate effect, follows an order issued by the Food Safety Department under Clause (a) of Sub Section 2 of Section 30 of the Food Safety and Security Act, 2006. The notification, signed by the State Commissioner of Food Safety on November 22, said the prohibition comes under regulation 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulation, 2011. Besides paan masala and gutkha, any other chewing material containing tobacco or nicotine would also come under the purview of the ban.

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