By Okram Bimol
IMPHAL, May 4: More than two months after the state cabinet adopted the resolution to ban smokeless tobacco products in the state, the very same tobacco products continue to be sold openly in all shops at a much higher price.
Considering all the health scares of chewing tobacco and other forms of tobacco consumption, the state cabinet’s decision was welcomed by many albeit a growing apprehension amongst the public that the ban might actually end up as a failure and rightly so.
Even as state authorities concerned have been playing the blame game regarding abject imposition of the ban in the state; for some, it has become a sort of a blessing in disguise.
For the smaller shops selling such items including pan and other pan masalas, profits have never been higher than since the cabinet decided on the ban.
A Baba 120 pan (tobacco consumed with betel nuts and leaves) variety which was earlier sold at Rs 5-7 is now sold at Rs 10-15 after the ban, while a Baba 160 pan (tobacco consumed with betel nuts and leaves) which was sold at Rs 10-20 is now sold at Rs 15-30.
Pan masalas like “Talab” a favourite amongst the old and young, woman and man alike in the state is now being sold at Rs 5 though it has a printed price of just Rs 1.
This IFP reporter met with several authorities concerned on the issue; several of whom came up with their own sets of excuses for the failure of the authorities to impose the ban.
A high ranking official of the Food Safety department under the state Medical Directorate on conditions of anonymity said soon after the official approval announcing the ban, the directorate had identified the Chief Medical Officers of all districts as designated officers to impose the ban successfully in their respective districts under the Food Safety and Standard Act, Rules and Regulation, 2011.
However the presence of smokeless tobacco products on the shelves of the shops indicates the total failure of the CMOs to impose the ban, the official lamented and added the department has to conduct all programs concerning the ban as the district CMOs have failed to do so.
On the other hand, an official of the State Tobacco Control Cell (STCC) under the National Tobacco Control Cell blamed the lack of personnel and proper guidance from the government for the failure in properly imposing the ban.
The official highlighted that due to the lack of security personnel available with the STCC, it is unable to conduct inspection of shops selling tobacco and further added that the STCC has officially intimated the Government for the lack of personnel and security on several counts; however the government seem to have turned deaf to the demands.
Meanwhile, concerned officials of the Imphal East claimed that awareness campaigns against the use of tobacco products have been held at Biramangol College which was attended by around 1500 individuals.