Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday appealed to all states and union territories to ban the sale of tobacco products and spitting in public to check the spread of the coronavirus disease.
The appeal comes after the Rajasthan and Jharkhand governments issued orders in this regard to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.
In a letter to all state health ministers, Vardhan said smokeless tobacco users have a tendency to spit in public places, increasing health risks especially those of spreading contagious diseases like Covid-19, tuberculosis, swine flu, encephalitis and others.
“Use of smokeless tobacco also creates an unhygienic environment which further spreads the diseases. Large gatherings at the retail outlets where smokeless tobacco products are sold, also pose the risk of spread of Covid,” PTI quoted him as saying.
In the letter dated May 11, the Union minister underlined that tobacco use is a major threat to public health globally. He also mentioned the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) appeal to the public not to consume and spit smokeless tobacco products in public places.
Chewing tobacco products and areca nut increases production of saliva followed by a very strong urge to spit. Spitting in public places could enhance the spread of the Covid-19, Vardhan said.
“By banning spitting in public places, states and UTs can help in achieving not only Swachh Bharat but also Swasth Bharat (Clean India and Healthy India),” he said.
Vardhan also mentioned the May 1 guidelines issued by the Union Home Ministry under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005, which stipulate that “spitting in public places shall be punishable with fine as may be prescribed by the state/UT local authority and consumption of liquor, pan, gutkha, tobacco etc in public places is not allowed”.
Appreciating the efforts taken by Rajasthan and Jharkhand in this direction, the health minister urged all states to take similar measures and create widespread awareness regarding the harm of spitting in public places.
The Rajasthan government had by an ordinance banned spinning in public places and sale of paan, gutka and tobacco in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The Jharkhand too has imposed a complete ban on all types of tobacco products to prevent spitting in public places that could increase the spread of coronavirus infection.