The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) will soon go tobaccoless. This is because cigarettes and beedis, which use the hazardous substance tobacco as their chief ingredient, will become a thing of the past and no longer exist in the state. The newly formed Mehbooba Mufti Syed government in has ordered a complete and an immediate ban on the sale of loose cigarettes, ‘beedis,’ and tobacco in the state, as of Saturday, May 28, 2016, according to a “Press Trust of India” (PTI) official, reporting for the Hindustan Times.
In what may be regarded as a landmark initiative to prevent people from taking their health and life ‘lightly,’ the decision appears to have been taken in response to a report submitted in 2015 by the non-profit organization, Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), according to a “PTI” spokesperson reporting for the Economic Times. The report named Jammu and Kashmir as a fast-emerging “smoking capital” of Northern India.
It also suggested that the politically disputatious state, often popularly known as the “paradise on earth,” due to its natural scenic beauty, currently sustains “12 percent cigarette smokers, which is almost double the national average of 5.7 percent, alongside 3.8 percent beedi smokers and eight percent smokeless tobacco users.”
At present, the people of Jammu and Kashmir annually spend Rs. 1000 crore on purchasing cigarettes and tobacco. This figure translates into monthly cigarette imports worth $260 million entering the state, with $190 million consumed by the Kashmir region and $70 million by Jammu, according to the Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies, as reported by the website Greater Kashmir.
The menace mostly affects youngsters, as evident from a study conducted by the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in 2012. The results found 5.9 percent of female college students and 30 percent of male students, addicted to smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption. The gravity of the situation can be ascertained from 4,500 lung cancer cases reported by the same institute in 2015, which is a straight 12.5 percent increase from around 4,000 cases reported in 2014. These alarming statistics are sufficient to indicate a pressing need for Jammu and Kashmir to go tobaccoless.
Coincidentally, the present ban closely follows a similar prohibition imposed on the sale of alcohol in the state of Bihar on April 5, 2016, according to an “Indo-Asian News Service” (IANS) spokesperson, reporting for India Today.
It is being perceived as an effort by the government to strictly comply with section 7 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply, and Distribution) Act, 2003, regarding which a notification was already issued by the Department of Health and Medical Education.
The Act of Parliament, which received the assent of the president of India and passed by the Ministry of Law & Justice on May 19, 2003, “extends to the whole of India,” including Jammu and Kashmir, as reported by the Gazette of India. The legislation, apart from curbing the regulation of trade and commerce in and production, supply and distribution of cigarettes, tobacco and other related products, also prohibits advertising of the same.
According to the “PTI” official reporting for the Hindustan times, the revolutionary step has been jointly crafted by the Union and the State government. Fortunately, it is in tandem with a vigorous awareness campaign already being run by volunteer organizations to educate the masses, especially the youth, about the ill effects of smoking and consuming tobacco and related products. This includes creating public awareness about the life-threatening diseases, such as cancer and other respiratory problems, that these products can lead to, so as to discourage their usage and consumption, thereby, prioritizing the interest of public health over everything else. Hopefully, all these efforts will soon help Jammu and Kashmir to go tobaccoless.
By Bashar Saajid
Edited by Leigh Haugh
Hindustan Times: J&K bans sale of loose cigarettes, tobacco
Greater Kashmir: 1000 Cr on Smoking: the problem cannot be addressed by imposing taxes alone
India Today: After liquor ban crime graph slumps in Bihar
The Economic Times: Jammu and Kashmir emerging as smoking capital of Northern India: VHAI
The Gazette of India: Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply, and Distribution) Act, 2003
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