Tobacco threat to society
RAIDS being conducted to enforce the ban on consumption and sale of tobacco products coupled with continuous seizure of large quantities of the health hazardous items suggest that there has been no decline in the number of users of tobacco items in Manipur. Efforts by NGOs and government agencies to create awareness on the ill-effects of using various tobacco products at the grassroots level and the annual observance of world anti-tobacco day seemingly failing to strike the right chord among the citizens about the perils of chewing tobacco items and smoking not only testify naivety of the common people but also indicate existence of thriving tobacco syndicate in the state. Considering the fact that anti-tobacco campaigns are being conducted since the past many years but are yet to have any insignificant impact in putting a curb on usage of the harmful products, it merits minute revision on the effectiveness of the policies framed to safeguard the citizens from the hazards of tobacco. It is also apparent that leniency against those persons responsible for transporting the tobacco products and selling such items has also emboldened traders to an unprecedented level. Similar to Manipur having countless number of people infatuated with earning wealth with the least toil and flourishing black marketing of different consumer goods, possibility of the tobacco dealers having a well-established network of supply chain or vice-like grip over those who are supposed to regulate, monitor and check unhealthy trade practices cannot be ruled out, for the simple reason that such activities involve significant financial transactions.
There have been commendable initiatives taken by the new BJP-led government, such as ministers and top department officials actively involved in checking timber smuggling, streamlining distribution of government controlled essential items, busting transport fuel adulteration racket, drive against production and sale of unsafe food items, bakery goods in particular, etc. While the recent case of placing a forest department official under suspension for alleged incompetency to check smuggling of loads of timbers should drive home the message that the government is determined to cleanse the system and will not tolerate any misdemeanours by those who are supposed to aid the administration, the very fact that tobacco traders are unfazed by the possible punitive action they might face in case of being found violating law of the land calls for framing most stringent laws to tackle such unscrupulous elements. Gravity of the threat posed to the common citizens due to consumption of tobacco products and smoking could be estimated from Manipur earning the undesired distinction of being one of the states in the northeast region having the highest concentration of tobacco product users. That use of tobacco items is most rampant among the youths could also be comprehended from empty packets of chewable tobacco items and cigarettes littering the college campuses and other public places commonly frequented by youngsters. Instances of the students using tobacco products could also be construed as confirmation about failure of the enforcement agents to implement the law on prohibiting sale or use of tobacco items within 100 metres range of educational institutions. Thus, it remains to be seen whether chief minister N Biren’s announcement at a recent world anti-tobacco day event that smoking at public places would be banned will be followed up in the right earnest by those who are supposed to enforce the ban.