Sale of tobacco products only through licensed shops

R. Prasad – THE HINDU

They cannot sell non-tobacco items

In a blow to free sale of tobacco, the Health Ministry is tightening the screws on marketing, which will curb access and shield children.

As part of the regulation of sale, the Ministry has asked all the State governments to develop a mechanism through the municipal authority to provide “permission/authorisation” to retail outlets selling tobacco products. Shops authorised to sell tobacco products will not be permitted to sell any non-tobacco products such as biscuits, toffees and chips that are essentially meant for non-tobacco users, especially children.

Limiting exposure

“We believe that such an initiative will prove to be beneficial in achieving the objective of preventing children/ non-user from exposure to tobacco products,” the September 21 letter says.

“Essentially, the Ministry desires to license the sale of tobacco through authorised vendors only. Like alcohol, tobacco products too can be sold only by licensed retail outlets,” says Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, cancer specialist at the Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai and anti-tobacco crusader.

“Shopkeepers purposely store non-tobacco products that children consume to lure kids to get exposed to tobacco at an early age. Selling tobacco products through licensed shops will prevent mushrooming of outlets selling tobacco products and shrewd marketing of tobacco products to kids.”

Under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA), 2003, sale to minors is prohibited. However, as the 2009-2010 Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) revealed, over 56% of minors polled who bought cigarettes in a store were “not refused purchase because of their age.”

The GYTS survey also found that in 2009 nearly 15% of children (19% of boys and over 8% of girls) in India who were 13-15 years used some form of tobacco. Another 15.5% of children belonging to the same group who had never smoked before were likely to begin smoking the following year. The overall tobacco use among students aged 13-15 increased from 13.7% in 2006 to 14.6% in 2009.

“The world over it has been proven beyond doubt and all hidden industry documents made available through the Minnesota agreement have revealed that the tobacco industry targets youth and children as its new consumer base,” says Dr. Chaturvedi.