Patna: All forms of smokeless tobacco, including khaini, pan masala, zarda or any other flavoured or chewable tobacco and supari, may soon be banned in Bihar. The state health society (SHS), acting on the instructions of chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha, has sent a note to this effect to the health department to be presented before the state cabinet. If this is passed, Bihar will be one of the few states to ban all forms of smokeless tobacco. Recently, Maharashtra and Mizoram did it. As of now only gutka and pan masala containing nicotine is banned in Bihar.
Outgoing SHS executive director Sanjay Kumar said the note will be sent to the cabinet after approval from finance and law departments.
Bihar has the dubious distinction of being the state where tobacco consumption is the highest in the country. Out of total consumption in the state, over 49% people take it in smokeless form. Quoting figures of International Journal of Cancer, the note says in 2010 tobacco-related cancers caused death to over 40% males and over 18% females in Bihar.
The note also hints at the fact that banning sale of tobacco is not going to hit state’s finances. The note says in 2012-13, the state earned a revenue of over Rs 56 crore by sale of tobacco products. On the other hand, over Rs 13 crore was diverted from chief minister health relief fund for treating tobacco-related ailments.
The chief secretary had recently directed the finance department to increase taxes on all smoke and smokeless tobacco products up to 60% to 70%. At present, tobacco products other than bidi are taxed at 30%. Few months back, however, khaini was exempted from taxation despite a WHO survey that said khaini is the biggest killer in Bihar.
‘Find out alternative cropping’
Acting on the instructions of chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha, agriculture director M Saravanan has written to joint director, agriculture, of Tirhut and Darbhanga divisions and deputy director (information), agriculture, of over six districts to explore avenues of alternative cropping for khaini-growing formers.