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In a serious step to cope up with disease like oral cancer, Assam has legally ban consumption of all forms of smokeless tobacco, including pan masala containing tobacco and nicotine, through an act on Wednesday which comes into effect on Thursday. Incidentally, Assam has become the first state to impose the ban through legislature although several states have already imposed similar bans under the food safety regulation.
The state government decided to take this step after considering the fact that smokeless tobacco accounts for 90% of oral cancers. The act also bans the manufacture, advertisement, trade, storage, distribution and sale of the substances.
On Wednesday, state health minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma informed the legislative assembly that governor JB Patnaik had given assent to the Assam Health (Prohibition of manufacturing, advertisement, trade, storage, distribution, sale and consumption of zarda, gutkha, pan masala, etc, containing tobacco and/or nicotine) Bill, 2013, on Tuesday.
Violators shall be punished with imprisonment up to seven years and a fine between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh. Consumption or possession of zarda, gutka and pan masala containing tobacco shall be punished with a fine of Rs 1,000 for the first offence and Rs 2,000 for each subsequent offence.
Currently, sale, manufacture and storage of pan masala and gutka containing tobacco and nicotine have been banned for a year with effect from March 8, 2013, under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011.