Thursday 20 September 2018

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Goa also plans to ban gutkha

 

Following Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, Goa is also now planning to ban consumption of gutkha in the tourist state.

The tiny coastal state has already banned smoking and chewing of any tobacco product in public places as well as selling it to minor children and near the educational institutions.

A legislation in this regard has gone a long way, though it is not being enforced with a might till date. In spite of the state Assembly passing the bill in July 1997, it had to travel right up to Rashtrapati Bhavan to get the assent only in September 1999, thanks to the tobacco lobby.

The act however was brought fully into force only on 26 January 2000, after exempting beaches, sports stadiums, bus stands, ferry boats and amusement parks as public places. Since then, neither the state has notified smoking zones as specified in the act nor enforced the legislation to control smoking and chewing tobacco in public places.

Meanwhile, in order to control gutkha consumption in the tourist state, the state in 1998 had imposed cent per cent sales tax on gutkha. Though this made the gutkha sachets disappear from the shops, sale in black became order of the day, depriving the state from tax revenue.

"Before imposing cent per cent sales tax, we were getting almost Rs 15 million with mere eight per cent tax", informs additional sales tax commissioner Y S Pai Bir. He admits that the revenue reduced drastically after hiking the tax exorbitantly.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court order prohibited states from imposing sales tax on gutkha by categorising it as a tobacco product. The Goa government then imposed 25 per cent luxury tax on it.

The state today however earns only around Rs 35 lakh as the official gutkha turnover has also come down to only around Rs 15 million. The illegal sale of gutkha sachets even near the educational institutions still continues while officials turn blind eye towards it.

According to Dr Shekhar Salkar, general secretary of the National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication, the impact of the legislation and education has definitely brought down the rate of smoking, but not chewing the tobacco.

In fact, he is worried about the increasing trend among the younger generation of chewing tobacco, especially the most addictive products like gutkha. "Only a central legislation in this regard will help, though efforts of the state governments are definitely commendable", he states.

It is a fact that Goa was the first state to bring in legislation banning smoking and chewing tobacco in public places. Though it is not implemented with full vigour, Dr Salkar feels that even the ban on advertising tobacco products has helped tremendously.

Chief minister Manohar Parrikar has also supported the move and plans to bring in the legislation, if possible in the ongoing month-long monsoon session. His announcement in this regard in the House last night has thus been welcomed from several quarters.






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