A ban on tobacco in Rajasthan will be a “stupid decision” because it will cause revenue loss, state health minister Kali Charan Saraf said on Thursday, drawing flak from activists.
Ruling out tobacco ban in the state, Saraf said, “If ban has to be imposed, then it should be done at the country level.” He was replying to reporters’ questions after a meeting with a Sri Lankan delegation, which is in the state to study the implementation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2010, tobacco use causes one million deaths in India every year, which means 2200 deaths in a day. In Rajasthan, 50,000 deaths are attributed to tobacco use every year -- 136 deaths every day.
Anti-tobacco activists fumed over the minister’s statement. “I really pity him and do not feel angry, as the minister does not know what he is saying,” said Dharamveer Katewa, secretary of the Indian Asthma Care Society. “If he is talking about revenue loss by banning tobacco, then he should know that ₹1160 crore is spent on treating diseases caused by tobacco use. By banning tobacco, minister can save people’s expenses on tobacco, treatment of tobacco-related diseases and, importantly, the families from losing their members,” he said. “The minister should not give an irresponsible statement sitting on a responsible position.”
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Virendra Singh said Rajasthan was the first state to ban gutka and got the Centre’s praise for steps to curb tobacco use.
“Banning tobacco is the most effective way to prevent cancer and it should be done in view of increasing head and neck cancers and the resulting deaths,” said Pawan Singhal, patron of the Voice of Tobacco Victims. “If the government cannot ban tobacco, then it should impose heavy taxes on it, which will discourage its consumption and the government will earn more revenue.”