GUWAHATI, March 7 � The State government�s ban on smokeless tobacco � though imposed with a noble intent to contain the incidence of cancer, heart ailments and other disorders triggered by tobacco use � is turning out to be a money spinner for those still in the trade, with rampant black marketing of the chewing tobacco products.
Though the law brought by the government speaks of stern legal action against traders of gutka, pan masala, zarda and any other product containing tobacco or nicotine, under-the-counter sale of such product is still on.
The Act also has the provision of fine on consumers, but the products are being bought and sold at double the rate of printed maximum retail price in the markets of the city.
In the absence of strict vigil after the implementation of the ban, per 10 gram of zarda or chewing tobacco is selling at the rate of Rs 100 or more, depending on the availability of the product with the shop owners. The average maximum retail price (MRP) of 10 gram of zarda is around Rs 60, depending on the variety and brand. Similarly, gutkha and paan masala sachets are being sold at the rate of Rs 8 to 10, and more.
The Assam Health (Prohibition of Manufacturing, Trade, Advertisement, Storage, Distribution, Sale and Consumption of Zarda,�Gutkha,�Pan Masala containing Tobacco) Bill 2013, was introduced in the State Assembly in July last year and was notified as an Act in February this year leading to the disappearance of all the festoons of tobacco sachets from the shop counters.
�The consumers pressurize us to bring tobacco products and we take this risk for them. We are also buying these products at higher rates. People readily buy a 50 gram tin of zarda at the rate of Rs 500 or more,� said a retail shop owner on condition of anonymity.
�If tobacco products are available in the market, the addicted consumers get attracted towards it and end up buying the product paying higher rates,� said another shopkeeper.