Siliguri environmentalists support ban on sale of tobacco in plastic sachets

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Siliguri (West Bengal), Dec.10 (ANI): Environmentalists and anti-tobacco groups in West Bengal's Siliguri district supported the decision of supreme court to ban the sale of tobacco products packed in plastic.

SC's decision to ban the sale of tobacco products such as 'gutkha' and 'pan masala' in plastic sachets came on Tuesday.

Anti- tobacco organizations were pleased with the decision of the court.

"This is a positive step in the plastic pouch ban on tobacco products. Earlier also, there were so many directions given to ban tobacco but nothing worked out. The plastic pouches have been banned due to environmental reasons. When there would be packing in different material, this would affect the cost of the product," said Dhanajay Singh, coordinator of an anti-tobacco non-governmental organization.

"The court has also directed that these products should be costly in order to be out of the reach of common people. We would support this cause and this direction should be followed," he added.

Tobacco manufacturers, however, feel the ban would lead to the closure of thousands of tobacco manufacturing units all over the country and threaten the livelihoods of workers.

"Tobacco eating is injurious for health. We know this but the government should give us a way out to sell our product. If the product is not sold in plastic pouches, then it should be followed on other products as well. Chips and shampoo sachets are also sold in plastic pouches so why a ban on only tobacco products?" said Pradeep Singhal, a tobacco manufacturer.

The tobacco manufacturers have been told to investigate alternative forms of packaging and report back to the court.

The central government has agreed to carry out surveys on the impact on public health of both the tobacco-related products and plastic packaging.

It is estimated that over 240 million people use some form of cheap and addictive tobacco, which is linked to over a million deaths every year.

The ban on plastic packaging would be effective from March 1, 2011. By Tarak Sarkar (ANI)

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