Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam, on April 11 demanded the Assam government to prohibit the use and spitting of smokeless tobacco products in public as spitting increases risk of spread of COVID-19.
The forum on April 11 submitted letters to the chief minister, the health minister and the chief secretary, and raised the demand.
Referring to a letter of Pradip Kumar Pal, Under Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (Tobacco Control Division), on April 10 to the chief secretaries of all states/UTs, forum secretary Ajoy Hazarika said, “In his letter to the state government, Pal has said that Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has issued an appeal to the general public to not consume and spit smokeless tobacco in public. Chewing smokeless tobacco products, paan masala and areca nut (supari) increases the production of saliva followed by a very strong urge to spit. Spitting in public places could enhance the spread of the COVID 19 virus.”
In view of the increasing danger of COVID-19 pandemic, ICMR has appealed the general public to refrain from consuming the smokeless tobacco products and spitting in public places during the COVID-19 epidemic.
In the letter, Pal has reportedly mentioned that the state/UT governments have necessary authority under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and also under various provisions of Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure to deal with COVID-19.
He has reportedly instructed the state/UT to take necessary preventive measures under the appropriate law to prohibit the use and spitting of chewing smokeless tobacco products in public.
According to WHO advisory, chewing smokeless tobacco (khaini, zarda, gutka, paan and paan masala with tobacco) and areca nut (supari) increase saliva production and enhances the urge to spit repeatedly, with spitting in public places increasing the spread of COVID -19.
“In wake of COVID-19 pandemic, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Chandigarh, Thane in Maharashtra, Dumka district in Jharkhand have already banned use and sale of tobacco products and spitting in public places. So it is now government of Assam’s turn to prohibit the use and spitting of chewing smokeless tobacco products in public in the state as early as possible,” Hazarika added.