Assam government has passed the much awaited “Assam Health Bill, 2013” that prohibits advertisement, manufacture, trade, storage, distribution, sale and consumption of Zarda, Gutka and Paan Masala containing tobacco in the state on Friday.
The bill, which has been signed with two amendments each from the ruling and opposition parties, will come into implementation after getting the assent from the Governor of Assam and issue of the gazette notification.
Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma admitted that the bill is the first of its kind in the entire country. The word “tobacco” as mentioned in the Bill means all types of smokeless and chewing tobacco and tobacco products including Gutkha,Pan Masala and other chewing material having tobacco as one of its ingredients.
As per the bill, “Anyone who violates the newly introduced act shall be punished with imprisonment up to seven years and fined not less than Rs one lakh, which may extend to Rs 5 lakh. Consumption or possessing of zarda, gutka and paan masala containing tobacco shall be punished with a fine of Rs 1,000 for the first offence and Rs 2,000 for the second offence and subsequent offence.”
The bill will now empowers police officers not below the rank of a sub-inspector to enter, search, and seize the entire quantity of tobacco that may be stored for manufacture, trade, distribution, sale and consumption.
According to the state financial department sources, the implementation of the bill will result in a financial loss of Rs 20 crore annually to the state exchequer.