BHUBANESWAR: Though it has been nearly two years since Odisha enforced total ban on manufacture, sale and use of gutkha, the readymade tobacco product continues to be abundantly available in the State.
More than 19 per cent of users are still purchasing pre-packaged gutkha rendering the ban facile. Moreover, there has been a sly shift in product packaging like selling separate packets of tobacco and betel nut mix. Most users (81 per cent) have reported purchasing the separate packs and combining them to take effect of gutkha, a WHO and John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health study on ‘Impact of gutkha ban in select States of India’ has revealed. The study was conducted in seven States of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Odisha along with Delhi-National Capital Region. In Odisha, the study was conducted in Khurda and Cuttack districts with current and former gutkha users, dual users and retailers to determine the impact of the ban in the State.
“Of all the States, it is only in Odisha that a high percentage of users continued to avail the banned pre-packaged gutkha. This calls for stricter enforcement of the ban. Odisha should consider, as States like Delhi, Maharashtra and Assam have done, adoption of stringent policy measures to ban manufacture, sale and storage of all forms of smokeless tobacco,” Director of Research and Strategic Planning, Centre for Communication and Change-India, John Hopkins University Dr Pradip Krishnatray said. Presenting the finding, Dr Krishnatray, however, remarked that interest in quitting tobacco was quite high provided there is no availability. Eightseven per cent of respondents agreed that the Government should strongly impose the ban on not only gutkha but also other forms of smokeless tobacco.
Releasing the fact sheet on Odisha, Health Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said enforcement measures need to be strengthened. A coordinated approach has to be adopted with involvement of multiple departments and stakeholders, he stressed.
Speaking at a workshop organised for the release, CMD, Hemalata Hospital and Research Centre, Dr Arabinda Kumar Rath said successful implementation of ban requires strong political and social will. Without it, the ban would remain a distant dream.