In a notification that comes into effect immediately, the Assam state government on Wednesday imposed a complete ban on the manufacture, sale, distribution, storage, display and transportation of "gutka" and "pan masala" in the state for a year.
Assam's food Safety Department passed an order under clause (a) of Sub-section 2 of Section 30 of Food Safety and Security Act, 2006 which brought forth the immediate ban.
As per a notification signed by Assam's Commissioner of Food Safety, other chewing material containing nicotine or tobacco would also be banned along with "gutka" and "pan masala".
The ban is in keeping with Regulations 2, 3 and 4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations 2011.
Assam is the fourth highest tobacco consuming state in the country, according to a report in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The state has experienced an increase in tobacco consumption where use of the substance shot up from 39.3 percent to 48.2 percent in just five years, the 2016-17 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2016-17 found. This is in contradiction with the rest of the country where level of tobacco use reduced from 34.6 percent to 28.6 percent.
The survey also found that 41.1 percent of all adults in Assam consume "smokeless tobacco" with its prevalence increasing by nine percentage points, PTI reported in August lat year.
This is not the first attempt to reduce the population's tobacco consumption in Assam. Previously, the Assam Health (Prohibition of Manufacturing, Trade, Advertisement, Storage, Distribution, Sale and Consumption of Zarda, Gutkha, Pan masala Containing Tobacco) Bill 2013 was tabled and in 2014, then Health and Family Welfare Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said thatthe ban would soon be implemented.
However, earlier in the year, The Telegraph quoted anti-tobacco activists such as Ajoy Hazarika who pointed out that the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act was publicly being flouted in Assam.