GUWAHATI: The state government on Tuesday tabled the much-awaited bill that prohibits manufacture, advertisement, trade, storage, distribution, sale and consumption of zarda, gutka and paan masala containing tobacco in the state.
Once the Assam Health Bill, 2013, is passed, the manufacture, trade, advertisement, storage, distribution, sale and consumption of all forms of smokeless and chewing tobacco will be banned in the state.
Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while tabling the bill, said that an improved public health is the prime objective of the bill and violation of the bill will be treated as a cognizable offence. As per the bill, "Anyone who violates the law shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend up to seven years and with a fine not less than Rs one lakh, which may extend to Rs 5 lakh. Consumption or possessing of zarda, gutka and paan masala containing tobacco shall be punished with a fine of Rs 1,000 for the first offence and Rs 2,000 for the second offence and subsequent offence."
The bill added that if a person previously convicted of an offence under this act, is subsequently convicted for the same offence again, he shall be liable to punishment again.
The bill will also not spare any company for violating the law. The bill empowers police officers not below the rank of a sub-inspector to enter, search, and seize the entire quantity of tobacco that may be stored for manufacture, trade, distribution, sale and consumption. The bill may come up for discussion in the house this week. Meanwhile, the finance department stated that the implementation of the bill will result in a financial loss of Rs 20 crore annually to the state exchequer.