Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi on Tuesday said, the government was determined to use social and legal initiatives, including extreme measures like sustained hike in taxes, to dissuade the public from their addictive habit of using tobacco and its products in the state.
Talking to newsmen, after his janata durbar, Modi said, Such measures have become necessary, as a recent survey by Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2009-2010 has indicated, that more than half of the population (53.5%) has fallen prey to the use of tobacco products.
The situation is alarming.
Though the percentage of cigarette and bidi smokers is only 5.9% and 8.4%, tobacco and guthka chewers are pegged at 48.07%.
Even the percentage of male and female users is 66.2% and 40% respectively.
It is time to make youngsters aware of the danger and dissuade them,h he said, adding, November 7 will be observed as oath taking day in all private and public schools as a first step.
I will use my position as the head of empowered committee of finance ministers on GST to recommend a substantial hike in taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products as a deterrent.
In the state, we have already started the process by hiking the rate of VAT. It is currently at 20%, up from 13.5% last yearh, he said.
Even the World Health Organisation favours a very high tax composition, at 65%, in prices of tobacco products. Rajasthan has it at 50%.
We favour higher tax in public interest and have not shied away from banning the storage, production and distribution of gutkha, despite the state exchequer being subjected to a revenue loss of Rs. 20 crore.
The Centre should include gutkha under the Food Saftey Act 2006 to impose a blanket ban on gutkha throughout the country, he demanded.
Modi, who was recently invited to New York for Tobacco Control, said gIt is a matter of concern that we stand at 6th position among the top tobacco consuming states in the country,he added.
He said, the government plans stricter steps to ensure complete ban on smoking in public places and use of gutkha.
Now, hotel and restaurant owners would also face the music in event of smoking on their premises.
A 17-member State Tobacco Control Co-ordination Committee is being constituted and anti-tobacco squads will also be put on vigil.
He said khaini growers the Begusarai-Samastipur-Vaishali arc would also be persuaded to take up alternate crops.