The ill-effects of consuming nicotine-laced pan masala, gutka and chewing of tobacco are pretty well-known yet our adults and adolescents are not ready to kick the habit. Equally well known is the fact that medical cost for treating smokeless tobacco-related cancers and diseases is staggeringly high. People are reminded umpteen times that the adverse health effects of smokeless tobacco are far greater than that of smoking. Yet those hooked to these noxious forms of consumable items don’t seem to care.
The enforcement of related laws to curb the menace, on the other hand, is lax – as always. In this scenario, our judiciary periodically keeps nudging the executive to do the needful. The Sindh High Court (SHC), for instance, had recently ruled that the existing laws with regard to the punishment for manufacturing and selling gutka and mainpuri should be enhanced as culprits involved in such crimes were being booked under the British-era laws and set free after facing minor penalties. In a follow-up hearing, the court has asked the police top brass to clamp down on the menace of gutka and mainpuri in the province and also incorporate a provision of the Pakistan Penal Code for causing hurt by means of poison in the FIRs until new legislation is put in place.
The court was peeved at the way its previous directives to the provincial authorities were treated with icy unconcern. It wants new legislation to award harsher punishment for the manufacture and sale of such hazardous items. The judges aptly noted that if the gravity of an issue required immediate legislation then the duty of legislatures become double in the passage of timely legislation. We hope the provincial legislature heeds the call of the court and tweaks the law in a way that it works towards curbing the rising trend of gutka and tobacco chewing.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2019.