Maharashtra may soon become the first state in the country to ban tobacco chewing in public places, six years after smoking was banned and made an offence.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday said he is keenly exploring the possibility of banning tobacco chewing under a law that will make it a punishable offence, much like smoking and spitting.
“It is one of the measures to stop tobacco consumption in the state that I am going to look into personally,” Fadnavis said, during a visit to the Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) on World Cancer Day.
If the ban is enforced, it will mean tobacco chewing will be barred in all public places, including public offices, hospital premises, educational institutions and open spaces, according to the Control of Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).
Fadnavis also admitted that COTPA laws are not implemented in strict and adequate measures, resulting in no check on the sale of tobacco near educational institutions.
“It is another area of tobacco control that I intend to look after personally. My emphasis will also be to include other departments, especially education, to ensure the sale of tobacco is stopped near schools and colleges,” he said.
According to oncologists at TMH, 40% of cancer cases are a result of tobacco consumption. Tobacco kills every third user prematurely through cancer, heart diseases, and lung diseases, especially when tobacco use is the single-most preventable cause of death globally.
In Maharashtra, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) study published in 2010, the total population that could be consuming tobacco stood at 25,899,273, of which 10,359,709 were estimated to die prematurely because of tobacco-related cancers and other diseases.
TMH also gave a memorandum to the chief minister. In the memorandum, the hospital offered trained and qualified human recourse in oncology to improve the quality of cancer care across government-run medical colleges across the state.
“If the state can provide a certain level of infrastructure in its hospitals, then we can certainly train enough professionals, who can be employed at these hospital, thus reducing the burden on TMH and also provide better care for patients’ closer home,” said Dr KS Sharma, director academics, TMH.