Come July, Maharashtra will ban its citizens from chewing tobacco or paan in public places. The state health department has been mulling over a notification to stop people from consuming and chewing tobacco and paan in public places. Secretary of health department, Sujata Saunik said on Monday that chewing of paan and tobacco was a major nuisance and so was the subsequent relay of spitting on the walls of government buildings and roads. "Spitting in public places is unhygienic and causes a spurt in communicable infections including TB. By July 15, a government resolution will be issued to ban consumption of smokeless tobacco in public places including hospitals, airports, gardens etc. Also spitting in public places will be fined," said Saunik.
Manufacture, sale or consumption of gutkha and paan masala has already been banned in Maharashtra Also smoking in public places has been banned. Taking this a step further, the state health department will now penalise those who consume raw tobacco mixed with lime, popularly known as Mashri or Khaini, in public places as well as people who spit after consuming tobacco or paan.
Doctors have lauded this initiative. "Section four of the Cigarettes, Tobacco and other Products has been amplified and interpreted in an excellent manner by the state government. Also relevant sections of the IPC will be slapped and fine will be extracted by the police or security guards in the public building or premises to enforce the law," said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, oncosurgeon, Tata Memorial Hospital.
According to the recent report released by Union health ministry, Maharashtra annually spends close to Rs7,000 crore on health costs to treat diseases caused by Tobacco – cancer, TB, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. It proposes raising taxes on tobacco and tobacco products by 10% at the least.
Tax officials said that only raising taxes without putting in place enforcement mechanisms at state borders to catch smugglers who carry out illicit trade will be a half-hearted measure. "Apart from increasing taxes, we are enforcing supervision by setting up 32 border check-posts in a phased manner in Maharashtra to check vehicles for illicit smuggling of tobacco," said Vivek Bhimanwar, joint commissioner, sales tax department.