Majority find chewable tobacco easily available despite ban: Survey

New Delhi: A survey participated in by more than 10,000 people found that majority of them have chewable tobacco easily available in their cities despite a Supreme Court ban on the product.

In September 2016, the Supreme Court had banned the sale of all forms of chewable tobacco and nicotine, and directed the authorities to strictly enforce its directions.

Citizen engagement platform LocalCircles ran a set of surveys across 18 states in India to understand if guthka and other chewable tobacco products were easily available in the cities.

It found that it was that 86 per cent find tobacco easily available in their cities. 5 per cent said that they were tough to find and 9 per cent of the respondents were not sure about it.

The Supreme Court decision came almost 5 years after the tobacco manufacturers had found a way to overcome the regulation on chewable tobacco by selling pan masala and tobacco in separate pouches.

While some states had issued orders to comply with the order, most of the states have still done nothing to enforce the ban, the survey said.

It found that enforcement has not been effective in states namely Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

Citizens of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Hyderabad and Karnataka said that the tobacco ban enforcement in their state has been poor.

According to the survey, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are the only two states where the effectiveness of chewable tobacco ban has been somewhat noticeable.

In a related poll, 97 per cent of participants had said that print and television advertisements of chewable tobacco products should be completely banned by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in line with the Supreme Court’s order to ban these products.

When asked if the government should revoke the production licenses and direct closure of all guthka and chewable tobacco product factories, 89 per cent citizens responded in an affirmative.

Only 10 per cent said that it should not be done and 1 per cent chose not to answer.

Citizens also listed different ways in which the tobacco ban could be enforced. They suggested that the nodal central government agencies should ensure that all factories producing chewable tobacco in any form are shut down.

They also said that agencies needed to work in very close coordination with state and other local authorities like police and health department to ensure that the ban is implemented.