NEW DELHI: A plea by a doctors' body seeking prohibition on consumption of tobacco in all public places and their proper disposal, prompted the National Green Tribunal today to seek a response from the government on the issue.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notice to Ministry of Environment and Forest, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Central Pollution Control Board while seeking their replies by November 2. The directions came on a plea of doctors' body 'Doctors For You', which claimed that tobacco was causing major health problems and its "cultivation, processing, production and disposal was harming the ecology badly".
The plea sought directions to prohibit consumption of tobacco in any form in all public places and ban the use of plastics for packing tobacco used in cigarettes. "People should be allowed to smoke and chew (and spit) in only designated areas where norms for disposal of cigarette/bidi butts and toxic saliva should be made. Such designated areas should be licensed and monitored jointly by the Ministry for Environment and Ministry of Health," it said.
According to the plea, represented through advocate Aishwarya Bhati, cigarette buds are concentrated toxic waste dumps and their very large numbers in environment causes toxic waste problem. "Discarded cigarette/bidi butts are a form of non-biodegradable litter...While India is working towards Swachh Bharat, nearly 100 billion non-biodegradable cigarette butts and 1 trillion bidi butts are getting disposed off into environment every year.
"Cigarette butts leach out toxic chemicals. The leachate (liquid that drains from a landfill) from cigarette butts is acutely toxic to representative marine and freshwater fish species," the plea said. The doctors' body further contended that tobacco chewers were not only harming other living beings but also adversely impacting the environment as "saliva of tobacco users is laden with carcinogens and toxic chemicals which, when spat out, contaminates our environment badly".
"Nearly 20 crore people in India chew tobacco as per Global Adult Tobacco Survey. Tobacco being a sialagogue, increases the saliva production. This leads to the urge to repeated spitting of tobacco laden saliva by the user," it said.