The Hemant Soren-led Jharkhand government has through a provision made it mandatory for those seeking government jobs to submit affidavits declaring they would not consume tobacco in any form.
The said provision will come into force in the state from April 1, 2021, and is in line with several initiatives previously taken by the government to curb the use of tobacco products.
Tobacco products would include any "cigarettes, bidi, khaini, gutkha, pan masala, zarda or supari as well as hukka, e-hukka, e-cigarettes and tobacco products being used by any name — smoking or smokeless."
A number of key decisions for the implementation of stricter laws pertaining to the increasing tobacco menace in the state were also taken during the meeting convened by the Tobacco Control Coordination Committee.
Headed by Chief Secretary Sukhdeo Singh, the committee decided that the shops selling tobacco products would be barred from selling other items of food such as tea and biscuits.
He also directed the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj departments to send letters to all zilla parishads, panchayat samitis and gram panchyats and has asked to conduct tobacco control discussions in every gram sabha.
"The committee has decided that from April 2021, anybody getting employment in Jharkhand's government sector would have to submit an affidavit against consuming tobacco products not only in office but also outside," the state's nodal officer for the National Tobacco Control Programme, L.R. Pathak said, reported The Telegraph.
He added that the state personnel department has been directed to frame the rules at the earliest so that the decision can be executed while filling vacancies, starting next year.
Moreover, during the meet, it was decided that a number of districts such as Ranchi, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Khunti, Saraikela-Kharsawan and Hazaribagh would be declared tobacco-free.
In a bid to stop the entry of tobacco products for sale, from other states, stringent measures would be taken at the state border.
To curb the transportation and futher sell of such products, the deputy commissioners of the states' 24 districts have been reportedly instructed to ensure strict checking at all entry points from neighbouring states including Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Bihar with the help of the commercial tax department.
Reports have also suggested that the tobacco products being brought in for commercial purposes will be confiscated at these checkpoints.
"Since April this year, the sale of tobacco products has been banned in Jharkhand. However, after the unlock, there have been reports of tobacco products being brought in clandestinely from neighbouring states in commercial vehicles and being supplied to stockists in the bigger cities," Pathak said.
"They (stockists) sell it through their networks to other outlets. We want to break this supply chain," he added.
The committee also directed officials to make sure that such tobacco products are not sold within the radius of 100 meters from schools and strict action to be taken against the shopkeepers violating the policies.
Ban on sale and consumption of tobacco products
In April, the state government had used its powers under the Disaster Management Act 2005 to ban the sale and use of all forms of tobacco in public places, as a precautionary measure, on the backdrop that the tendency to spit would spread the coronavirus.
It had warned that violation would attract a jail term between six months and two years, or a fine of Rs 200 or both, under Section 188 of the penal code.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2017 (GATS 2) has revealed that 38.9 per cent of all adults (including 59.7 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women in Jharkhand) either smoke tobacco and/or use smokeless tobacco.
The survey is a global standard for systematically monitoring adult tobacco use and tracking key tobacco control indicators.
The consumption of tobacco poses a huge public health risk, especially during the coronavirus outbreak. One of the significant factors to be taken into consideration while implementing eradication measures is that the consumption of such products have remained deeply ingrained as a cultural practice. Educating on the possible long term and detrimental effects of tobacco consumption on one's health are the only effective way to curb the menace.
Tobacco consumption has continued to increase despite the tobacco control policy. Thus, visible and aggressive anti-tobacco campaigns including increased public awareness of tobacco harms can help the government reach its ideal public health goals.