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Reconsider ban on smoking, says ITA

Ch. R. S. Sarma

GUNTUR, Feb. 8

THE Indian Tobacco Association (ITA) has urged the Union Government to reconsider on the proposed ban on smoking in public places, as ``any such measure, which even many of the developed nations have not resorted to, would adversely affect the economy in general and the livelihood of thousands of people dependent on the industry''.

In an interview toBusiness Line, Mr B. Krishna Murthy, the president of the ITA, said ``the Government should not take a decision unilaterally without consulting the farmers, the trade, the trade unions and all others dependent on the industry. It is too drastic a step and will have an impact on all sections''.

He said the farmers were facing difficulties this year due to the crop holiday in Andhra Pradesh and the alternative crops were not proving to be viable. Besides, thousands of agricultural workers dependent on the crop were idle and facing great hardship in finding alternative avenues of employment.

``Tobacco plays a vital role in our economy. It can't be denied, ignored, or simply wished away. Such an extreme step will not work in a developing nation like ours. In fact, even in the West, many of the developed nations have not resorted to the measur e.''

Referring to the statement of Dr Y. Sivaji, the president of the Tobacco Growers' Association, welcoming the proposed ban, he said he could not understand the rationale behind it, ``as Dr. Sivaji was supposed to be speaking for the farmer''. He said it w as not easy to find an alternative crop to tobacco and experience had proved it.

In fact, tobacco was an alternative to several other crops. When all other crops fail, farmers in Andhra Pradesh resort to tobacco. The facts at the ground level can't be ignored,'' he said.

He urged the Government to reconsider the decision, as the labour-intensive beedi industry would also be hit. Mr Krishna Murthy also expressed doubts over the enforcement of such a ban in view of the practical difficulties involved.

Related links:
Govt crackdown on tobacco -- Bill soon to ban smoking in public, event sponsorship

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