On Wednesday, state health minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma informed the legislative assembly that governor JB Patnaik had given assent to the Assam Health (Prohibition of manufacturing, advertisement, trade, storage, distribution, sale and consumption of zarda, gutkha, pan masala, etc, containing tobacco and/or nicotine) Bill, 2013, on Tuesday. "The notification will be issued on Wednesday, and the law will come into force from Thursday," Sarma said.
The law will come into force from Thursday, said Assam health minister
Though several states have imposed similar bans under the food safety regulation, Assam will be the first to impose the ban through legislature.
The state government decided to take this step after considering the fact that smokeless tobacco accounts for 90% of oral cancers. The act also bans the manufacture, advertisement, trade, storage, distribution and sale of the substances.
For violating the law, one shall be punished with imprisonment up to seven years and a fine between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh.
Consumption or possession of zarda, gutka and pan masala containing tobacco shall be punished with a fine of Rs 1,000 for the first offence and Rs 2,000 for each subsequent offence.
Sale, manufacture and storage of pan masala and gutka containing tobacco and nicotine have been banned for a year with effect from March 8, 2013, under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011.
"Our department can ban the sale of tobacco but the production aspect has to be handled by the agriculture department. We cannot ban production of tobacco. If any farmer produces such products, he has to sell them outside the state," Sarma added.