GUWAHATI: The Consumers' Legal Protection Forum (CLPF), Assam has demanded the Assam government to ban spitting in public places and prohibit the consumption or sale of pan, gutka, and tobacco. The Forum submitted a letter to Assam Chief Secretary Jishnu Barua on Friday and requested him to ban spitting and prohibit the use of smoke and smokeless tobacco products in public places in the State as early under the appropriate law for the greater interest of the public in view of the present pandemic situation.
In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Assam banned spitting in public places and declared it a punishable offence with a fine. The government also prohibited the consumption and sale of pan, gutka, tobacco etc. in public places.
In the letter, submitted to the Chief Secretary, CLPF secretary Advocate Ajoy Hazarika stated, "The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had appealed to the general public to refrain from consuming the smokeless tobacco product and spitting in a public place during the COVID pandemic. According to WHO advisory chewing smokeless tobacco (khaini, zarda, gutka, paan and paan masala with tobacco) and areca nut (supari) increase saliva production and enhance the urge to spit repeatedly."
The World Health Organization says in its FAQs that smoking is one thing people should not do during the coronavirus outbreak. Since the lungs and respiratory tract in smokers are already compromised to various extents, they are more prone to be severely infected by SARS CoV-2 which primarily attacks the respiratory system in human beings, and in severe cases leads to symptoms such as difficulty in breathing.
Further, the CLPF underlined that the Union Home Secretary in his letter to the Chief Secretaries of all States direct to strictly follow 'The National Directives for COVID-19 Management' where it is mention that 'spitting in public places will be punishable with fine.
Based on this, the State government should issue the ban order on the use of tobacco products in public places and spitting, the CLPF added.
Dr Amal Chandra Kataki, Director, Dr B. Borooah Cancer Institute, Guwahati also appealed to the Assam government and said, "The whole world is fighting against COVID-19 and the States are taking significant preventive measures to curb coronavirus impact. The government should ban selling all forms of tobacco products as it can indirectly spread the infection by spitting and smoking by some infected tobacco users."
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