KARACHI: The Sindh health department has finalised a bill to be presented in the Sindh Assembly prohibiting the preparation, manufacturing, storage, sale and use of chewing tobacco – gutka and mainpuri – in the province.
According to an official of the health department, a copy of the bill has been sent to the law department where it will be vetted and soon tabled on the floor of the assembly after official formalities are completed.
The proposed bill, the official said, prohibits production, preparation and manufacture of gutka and mainpuri. This contains any of the forms of betel nut, catechu, tobacco, lime and other materials, because its ingredients are injurious to health and not fit for human consumption.
The bill proposes that a violation will be punishable with imprisonment that may extend to seven years, but shall not be less than three years. According to the proposed bill, violaters would also be fined a minimum of Rs0.2 million, which can be extended up to Rs0.5 million. In case of any default in payment of fine, the accused would suffer an additional imprisonment of six months, the bill proposed.
Appreciating the bill, mouth and throat cancer consultant Dr Iftikhar Salahuddin said it is a welcome move. If this is implemented in the letter and spirit, it will improve healthcare of the underprivileged segment of society, he added.
“Around 50% of oral cancer patients, including in developed countries, don’t survive more than five years, even if a complex surgery is performed on the patient,” Dr Salahuddin told The Express Tribune. Larynx and thyroid cancer patients, he added, can survive up to 25 years after the onset of cancer. “Gutka, mainpuri and pan addicts have up to 70% more chances of developing cancer due to tobacco and other hazardous ingredients used in them,” he said.
Pakistan Medical Association General Secretary Dr Qaisar Sajjad, who is also an ENT surgeon, said the sincerity of the government and lawmakers can only be judged after the passing of this bill and its implementation. “The bill would certainly reduce the number of cancer patients but it would not completely eradicate [cancer] until a complete ban is imposed on betle nut, which has carcinogen [a cancer causing element],” he said.
Bill to ban shisha to be tabled in assembly
Once it is given the go-ahead by the Standing Committee on Home, the Sindh Prohibition of Shisha Smoking Bill, 2016 is all set to be tabled in the provincial assembly. It was proposed by the health department.
According to the proposed law, any person involved in smoking shisha, individually or collectively, or in the process of manufacturing, selling, using, importing or engaging in shisha smoking activities will be punished with an imprisonment for a term that may extend to three years. A fine may also be imposed on violaters, which could extend up to Rs0.1 million. The law suggests that any offence committed under this act within the province would be non-bailable.
Quoting health experts, an official of the health department official, who has worked on the proposed bill, said that the youth are enjoying using hard and soft drugs in shisha cafes, while young girls are also smoking shisha.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan, while pronouncing its verdict last year in a suo moto case of 2006, had shown serious concerns over the rampant use of shisha and had directed the federal government to impose a complete ban on its import.