Bengaluru: The State government’s reluctance to take a call on banning chewing tobacco, despite a clear direction from the Union Health Ministry in August this year, has drawn criticism from health experts.
Minister for Health U.T. Khader had announced that the issue on the ban would be discussed in the State Cabinet on November 12. However, the subject did not figure in the agenda.
This has raised doubts among experts as to whether strong lobbying by the tobacco industry is behind the reluctance.
Law Minister T.B. Jayachandra argued that the Supreme Court was scheduled to conduct a hearing on the subject in the first week of December, and the Cabinet cannot take any decision till the apex court delivers its judgment.
However, members of the State unit of the Indian Dental Association (IDA) refused to buy this argument. They have shot off a letter to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, describing the government’s reluctance as a “serious setback” for the State. A senior oncologist demanded to know how the Union Health Minister would have directed the State governments to ban chewing tobacco if it was in violation of the Supreme Court directions.
“If there are any legal issues, how has the ban been imposed in 11 States and two Union Territories? We are surprised by the Law Minister’s statement,” the oncologist said.
M.L.V. Prabhuji, State president of IDA, said the State government should take an unbiased view. “The habit of chewing tobacco is disproportionately higher among the economically poorer sections of society and women. Chewing tobacco and ailments related to it are a huge health burden on the people and the government,” he said.
Mr. Khader, who said he was keen on getting the ban imposed, said the Chief Minister was studying the pros and cons.
“It will be banned sooner or later. I have already submitted a report recommending the ban,” he said.
Mr. Khader said while the government was concerned about the farmers in the State growing tobacco and areca, the IDA has said the Flue Cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco grown in Karnataka is largely used for exports and in cigarettes.
“The ban will not affect the farmers. These farmers themselves suffer from several tobacco-related health problems,” Dr. Prabhuji said.